Volume 4, Number 9, March 2, 2007
Over the years, it has become increasingly evident that climate change is not only a reality – but also a real threat to our way of life. As the state’s Chief Financial Officer, It is my duty to understand and prepare for all issues that may affect the future of Florida’s economy. That is why Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson and I announced that we are partnering to co-host a series of “Conversations on Climate Change.”
The conversations will be a series of cabinet workshops to discuss the impact of climate change on Florida’s economy, as well as the need to expand renewable energy sources. The first workshop will be held on Tuesday, April 3, 2007, after the Cabinet meeting and is titled, “Climate Change: An Overview.” Each week we will continue to be joined by national experts and leaders on climate change such as former New York Governor Pataki, who is set to participate in our June workshop.
It is our hope that the conversations will help elected officials, business leaders, and residents understand the challenges that climate change presents, as well as the opportunities we have to be part of finding potential solutions. As a result, we may not only be protecting our economy but also helping to expand it with new environmentally friendly industries.
We invite you to follow along with us as we engage in these conversations.
CFO ALEX SINK AND INSURANCE CONSUMER ADVOCATE MILLIGAN TO HOLD MEDIA AVAILABILITY
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Insurance Consumer Advocate Bob Milligan will hold a media availability Monday, March 5, 2007, at 12:30 p.m. in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
CFO Sink and General Milligan will unveil a new website for the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate and discuss their vision for a stronger Insurance Consumer Advocate.
CFO SINK AND COMMISSIONER BRONSON ANNOUNCE “CONVERSATIONS ON CLIMATE CHANGE”
Former New York Governor George E. Pataki, leading national experts to participate
Bringing awareness to how environmental changes affect Floridians, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Charles Bronson announced they will be co-hosting “Conversations on Climate Change,” a series of Cabinet workshops on how Florida’s economy is affected by changes in climate and the need to expand renewable energy sources.
“Conversations on Climate Change” will begin Tuesday, April 3, 2007, at 11:00 a.m. after the Florida Cabinet meeting with “Climate Change: An Overview.” Future workshops are scheduled after the June 12, September 18, and November 14, 2007, Florida Cabinet meetings. Each workshop will feature a new topic and national experts in areas such as: the science of rising sea levels, renewable energy sources, the impact of climate change on the insurance and financial industries, and more. The sessions will also give elected officials, business leaders and Floridians the opportunity to understand how these challenges and potential solutions present opportunities for the growth of new industries in our state.
“Climate change is a reality, and we need to learn as much as we can about the potential impact on our state’s financial health,” said CFO Sink. “As someone concerned about Florida’s economy, I’m proud to partner with Commissioner Bronson to learn from other states’ experiences as we evaluate and make informed decisions about the future of energy in Florida.”
Commissioner Bronson launched Florida’s “Farm to Fuel” program, which partners with “25x25,” the national bi-partisan organization whose goal is to see U.S. agriculture produce 25 percent of the nation’s energy needs by the year 2025. “It is my hope that these discussions will inform the people of Florida of the importance of renewable energy production in Florida,” said Commissioner Bronson. “Our goals are to reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign oil and keep green space in Florida by giving farmers yet another crop to produce.”
Special guest former New York Governor George Pataki,
who made the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions a priority in his
administration, is planning to participate in the June workshop with other
experts. Former Governor Pataki has been nationally recognized for his
leadership on increasing awareness of climate change among the Northeastern
• Climate Change: Stephen Mulkey, Ph.D., Science Advisor, Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida
• Hurricanes: Kerry Emmanuel, Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• Sea Level Rise: Dr. Stephen Leatherman, Director of the International Hurricane Research Center and Coastal Research Laboratory at Florida International University
• Insurance: Tim Wagner, Nebraska Insurance Commissioner and Director of the U.S. National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
• Investments: Dan Reicher, Vice President of Google, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy
• Renewable Energy Resources: Speaker TBD, Farm to Fuel
• International Impacts: Speaker TBD, British Consulate-General
DATE: Tuesday, April 3, 2007
TIME: 11:00 a.m., after the Florida Cabinet Meeting
LOCATION: Florida Cabinet Meeting Room
CROSS CITY MAN CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED MURDER, ARSON
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who also serves as State Fire Marshal, said a 43-year-old man who set fire to a mobile home while his wife was in it has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery and arson.
State Fire Marshal detectives arrested Demps Randall Rains last Thursday following an investigation into the February 18 fire at their home at 9472 NE Highway 351, Cross City. Both Rains and his wife were transported to Shands Hospital for smoke inhalation.
“We will not tolerate violence against our citizens, and not only was this woman’s life put at risk but also the lives of firefighters and others who responded to the fire,” said CFO Sink. “We will do all we can to assist in prosecuting these charges to the fullest extent of the law.”
Detective Amelia Bowling, who works in the Ocala office of the State Fire Marshal’s Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations (BFAI), was the lead detective in the investigation and made the arrest. Detective Bowling determined that prior to the fire, Rains assaulted the victim, exited the trailer, and returned with a gas can. Rains then allegedly poured gasoline in the bedroom where the victim was lying, and set the bedroom on fire.
Rains is charged with first-degree arson to an occupied dwelling, attempted murder, and aggravated battery with domestic violence. If convicted on the charges filed by the BFAI, Rains faces up to 75 years in prison in addition to potential fines and restitution. An additional charge of possession of a controlled substance was added by the Dixie County Sheriff's Department at the time of the arrest.
The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is a law enforcement branch of the Division of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local fire and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of suspicious origin. Anyone with information about this case or any incident of fire is asked to call 1-877-662-7766 (1-877-NOARSON).
WINDSTORM MITIGATION STUDY COMMITTEE MEETS TO FINALIZE REPORT
The Windstorm Mitigation Study
Committee will conduct conference calls this Saturday, March 3, and meet
in Tallahassee on Monday, March 5, 2007. The committee call on Saturday
will be held from 8 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. The committee meeting on
Monday will be held from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m, and with a conference call
connection available throughout the meeting.
ARRESTS MADE IN $2 MILLION MORTGAGE FRAUD RING
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced today the arrests of two title agents believed to be part of a six-member mortgage fraud ring suspected of duping several mortgage lenders and a homeowner out of nearly $2 million.
The arrests stem from a joint investigation between the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), and the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), and focused on real estate transactions on five properties located in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. On all of these properties, bogus mortgages were obtained using false HUD-1’s, sham appraisals, bogus second mortgages, false verifications of employment, earnest money that was never received and other fraudulent documents.
“These kinds of schemes cause real economic harm to Floridians and our state’s economy,” said CFO Sink. “I commend the investigators for unraveling this scheme and working with the Office of Statewide Prosecution to get charges filed against these individuals.”
On Friday, the investigation led to the arrests of Pamela Jones Johnson, 38, of Parkland, and Elena Gunter Granderson, 43, Pembroke Pines, each on a charge of organized scheme to defraud. If convicted on that charge, each could face up to 30 years in prison. Four other defendants are still being sought; one is believed to be in South Florida and three are being sought in the New York area.
The charges stem from alleged mortgage fraud connected to two properties in Port St. Lucie, one property in Tamarac, one property in Hialeah and one property in West Palm Beach. The scheme involved falsifying borrower qualifications and submitting fraudulent documents to mortgage lenders which reflected non-existent second mortgages. The scheme also caused a homeowner to lose their home after it was sold to a straw buyer in lieu of foreclosure and the homeowner was ultimately evicted.
DIF’S lead detective was Ted Padich, and OFR’s lead investigator was Steven Brignola.
Anyone with information about this case or any other suspected fraud case is asked to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
CFO SINK BANS AGENT WHO MISLED SENIOR, ORDERS SON TO PAY RESTITUTION
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced today that she has permanently barred an insurance agent from involvement in Florida’s insurance industry and his son, also an agent, has been ordered to pay restitution for duping an elderly client into annuity deals that resulted in her suffering surrender charges and adverse tax consequences.
Hunter Stephen Bowen, Sr., 57, and Hunter Stephen Bowen Jr., 32, both of Ocala, allegedly convinced the woman to surrender several annuities, which she had bought over a period of time from Bowen, Sr., in favor of a new annuity carrying with it years of surrender charges.
“It is unconscionable that anyone would knowingly take advantage of a senior citizen who is relying on his or her advice to help with their financial security,” said CFO Sink. “I especially encourage seniors who have any questions about financial decisions to call the department for guidance, because there are people out there who will target them because they have a lifetime of savings.”
In lieu of fighting the administrative charges filed against him, Bowen, Sr. agreed to the revocation of his license, and he is also permanently banned from the insurance business in Florida.
Hunter Stephen Bowen Jr. has been ordered to pay restitution of $6,000 and an administrative penalty of $2,500. He has also been ordered to cease and desist from engaging in any future violations of the Insurance code, including conduct involving the misrepresentation of the terms or conditions of annuity or life insurance products. Misrepresentation in the sale of annuity and life insurance products may include either the misrepresentation of the terms and conditions of products and transactions, but also material omissions with respect to those products and transactions.
CFO Sink urges Floridians preparing to make financial decisions to read all documents, make sure their questions are answered and to verify information about agents and companies by logging on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com or calling 1-800-342-2762.
Viatical Company Pleads Guilty to Racketeering, Fraud
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Attorney General
Bill McCollum announced that Mutual Benefits Corp., once the largest
viatical settlement company in the country, pled guilty in Broward County
Circuit Court to criminal charges of racketeering and numerous counts of
investment fraud. The criminal charges filed by the Office of Statewide
Prosecution were a direct result of the investigation conducted by the
Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud. The Florida
Office of Insurance Regulation has since revoked the company's certificate
BROWARD COUNTY DENTIST FACES GRAND THEFT CHARGE
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced today the arrest of a dentist who allegedly billed the Fort Lauderdale Police Health Trust Fund for more than $18,000 in dental services that were never rendered.
Dr. Amy Masri, 35, was arrested Wednesday and charged with grand theft following a joint investigation between the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. She was booked into the Broward County Jail. If convicted on the charge, she faces up to five years in prison in addition to possible fines and restitution.
“This individual is accused of stealing money needed to provide care to police offers and their families,” said CFO Sink. “This is an affront to the men and women who serve and protect our citizens, and it is a crime that should be aggressively prosecuted.”
The Fort Lauderdale Police Health Trust Fund is operated by the Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 31 and is a self-insured fund that provides health insurance coverage for active as well as retired members of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and their families.
According to investigators, Masri not only submitted fraudulent claim forms for services that were not rendered to actual patients, she also allegedly submitted fraudulent claim forms under her maiden name, Amy Kienast, claiming to be the patient receiving the treatment. The fraud allegedly began in 2003.
An internal claims review by the Economic Crimes Unit of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department brought the suspicions to light. Ultimately, the execution of a search warrant led to interviews with several patients, which resulted in the charge. John Swope was the lead detective for DIF.
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information about this case or any other suspected fraud case is asked to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
PENSACOLA MEN CHARGED WITH ARSON AND
BROWARD COUNTY MAN CHARGED WITH INSURANCE
ST. LUCIE COUNTY WOMAN CHARGED WITH ARSON TO AN OCCUPIED DWELLING
St. Lucie County woman who allegedly set fire to an apartment to get revenge
on her boyfriend has been arrested on a charge of arson to an occupied
Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762 www.MyFloridaCFO.com/PressOffice/Newsletter/