State Fire Marshal Detective John Esslinger received
the second-highest number of votes at an annual awards ceremony held last
week by the State Law Enforcement Chief Association (SLECA). Florida’s
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink also attended and
spoke at the ceremony.
Esslinger, a detective in the State Fire Marshal
Office’s Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, was among 14 state law
enforcement officers submitted for the award by the various state law
enforcement agencies. Esslinger also was a nominee for the Attorney
General’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, which Attorney General Bill
McCollum announced in January.
Esslinger currently serves in Broward County. Last
year, he earned an arson fire arrest rate 21 percent higher than the
national average. In one year alone he investigated 76 fires, 33 of which
were determined to be the result of arson. Detective Esslinger was a key
investigator in a Broward County arson case in which he determined that a
fire at a commercial dry cleaning business was set by the owner and his son
to collect on insurance claims. The property loss associated with the arson
of the dry cleaning business and extended damage to other businesses in the
structure exceeded $700,000.
Detective Neil McDonald, who serves in the Department
of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud, was also a nominee for
SLECA Officer of the Year. Detective McDonald is a lead detective in the
Orlando field office and investigates complex cases involving various
insurance fraud schemes. Detective
McDonald recently arrested an insurance agent who swindled more than $2.6
million from Florida citizens by selling them bogus annuities. Detective
McDonald executed a search warrant that uncovered valuable evidence during
the investigation and, in August of 2006, the agent was sentenced to 14
years in state prison and ordered to pay restitution to the victims.