Volume 4, Number 14, April 6, 2007
What a great week for Floridians as the Florida Cabinet considered two items that have significant implications for the future of Florida and all Floridians.
First, the Cabinet held the first in an ongoing series of “Conversations on Climate Change” to begin a dialog on how Florida can plan for and address the potential effects of weather changes. We had a terrific turnout and the speakers created a solid basis for future conversations.
Secondly, in what likely will be seen as an historic vote, the Florida Cabinet approved a rule that will allow many Floridians to reconnect with our democracy and work to provide for their families. The Cabinet approved a rule allowing some non-violent felons who have served their sentences and paid full restitution to have their basic civil rights automatically restored. This will serve all citizens by paving the way for these individuals and their families to move on to new, productive lives.
This is a great place to start to build a better future for Florida.
CFO SINK ON RESTORATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS
the Florida Cabinet voted 3 to 1 to
end the unfair Jim Crow-era laws
that deny rights to hundreds of
thousands of Floridians, Chief
Financial Officer Alex Sink issued
the following statement:
“Frankly, I believe this is the right thing to do. This issue has been raised in almost every city and town I have visited over the past two years. I listened and learned that Florida is one of only five states, all in the South, that does not automatically restore rights.
“People who have made mistakes and paid their debt to society should be encouraged to live law-abiding and productive lives. By restoring voting rights and permitting them to get back to work, they can become full citizens and provide for their families. We’re not giving these people a gun and we’re not giving them a pardon – we’re giving them a chance to support their families and contribute to our democracy – we’re giving them a chance for a better future. We should focus not on the possibility that they might re-offend but on the belief that they will live law-abiding lives.”
CFO SINK AND COMMISSIONER BRONSON LAUNCH “CONVERSATIONS ON CLIMATE CHANGE” WEB SITE AND HOLD FIRST MEETING
Floridians can log on to www.floridaclimatechange.com for more information.
The first of four half-day “Conversations on Climate Change” initiated by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Charles Bronson was held in Tallahassee this week with serious discussions about the effects of climate change in Florida.
The official website for Florida Climate Change is now online. By logging onto www.floridaclimatechange.com, Floridians can learn about climate change, watch a video of Tuesday’s workshop, review the speakers' presentations and read about initiatives in other states.
“Conversations on Climate Change” is a series of four half-day Cabinet workshops that focus on climate change, how Florida’s economy is affected by changes in climate and the need to expand renewable energy sources.
“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 a government official concerned about Florida’s economy, I am focused on protecting the vitality of our financial and insurance markets.”
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. “With the amount of renewable energy sources in our state, we should strive to be a national leader in this emerging industry.”
“Conversations on Climate Change” was held on Tuesday, April 3, 2007with “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.
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 states.
The workshop “Climate Change: An Overview” featured the following discussions:
• From the Tree Tops- A High-Level View of Our Climate: Margaret Lowman, Ph.D., Director of Environmental Initiatives, New College of Florida
• Florida’s Future and the Science of Climate Change: Stephen Mulkey, Ph.D., Science Advisor, Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida
• Florida’s Beaches and Sea Level Rise: Stephen Leatherman, Ph.D., Director of the International Hurricane Research Center and Coastal Research Laboratory at Florida International University
• An Insurance Perspective on Climate Risk: Tim Wagner, Nebraska Insurance Commissioner and Director of the U.S. National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
• Clean Energy Investments: Kenneth Locklin, Clean Energy Group
• International Relationship - Carbon and the UK: Keith Allan, British Consulate-General
• Farm to Fuel- Opportunity in Renewables: Mike Bowman, Farm to Fuel
CFO SINK AND GENERAL MILLIGAN ON AUTO INSURERS’ USE OF INCOME, JOB INFO IN RATE SETTING
Responding to findings issued by Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty that auto insurance companies are using income and occupation information to set rates, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and General Bob Milligan, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, issued the following statements:
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink:
“Just because something might be legal doesn’t make it right. I don’t see how someone’s job reflects on how they drive or what rates they should pay. Rates should be fair and based only on actual risk.”
General Bob Milligan, Insurance Consumer Advocate:
“I will support the efforts of the Office of Insurance Regulation as they move to fix this egregious situation through quick legislative action and appropriate rulemaking.”
THEY CAN RUN, BUT THEY CAN’T HIDE
In a case that could have been taken from an NYPD Blues script, the last three suspects in a $2 million, six-member Florida mortgage fraud ring learned the hard way that hiding on a roof, in a closet or in a busy stock exchange office isn’t good enough when determined detectives are on your trail.
Esmeralda Ildefonso, 25, Arturo Ildefonso, 27, and Melissa Miranda, 27, were arrested last week on warrants stemming from an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), and the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR). The arrests resulted from close collaboration with the New York Police Department, who made the arrests.
“I commend everyone who worked to bring these suspects to justice,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. “We will go to any lengths to find those who prey on innocent Floridians—even if we have to go to New York to do it.”
DIF’s lead detective Ted Padich and OFR’s lead investigator Steven Brignola was working with the NYPD following up on information that the last three suspects were in New York, and NYPD Detective Ken Kearns confirmed Friday that the arrests had been made. Esmeralda Ildefonso was arrested at her office at the Mercantile Stock Exchange, and she reportedly advised of Arturo Ildefonso’s location. He was found hiding in a closet. He then reportedly disclosed Melissa Miranda’s location, where she was found hiding on a rooftop.
In all, six suspects – including two Florida title agents Pamela Jones Johnson, 38, of Parkland, and Elena Gunter Granderson, 43, Pembroke Pines, along with Paul Daniel Thompson, 28 – have been arrested for their alleged roles in fraudulent real estate transactions on five properties located in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. They allegedly obtained mortgages on the property by using fraudulent HUD-1’s, appraisals, second mortgages, verifications of employment, and other fraudulent documents.
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.
INDIAN RIVER COUPLE ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF INSURANCE FRAUD AND GRAND THEFT
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the arrests of an Indian River couple on charges of insurance fraud and grand theft for allegedly providing false mold laboratory test results to customers of their mold remediation company.
Lisa Lynn Bock, 42, and her husband Patrick John Bock, 43, of Vero Beach, were arrested Wednesday following an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF). They were booked into the Indian River County Jail with bond set at $10,000 and $25,000, respectively. If convicted on the charges filed against them, Lisa Bock faces up to five years in prison and Patrick Bock up to 20 years in prison. Both also face possible fines and restitution.
“This couple took advantage of Floridians seeking to make their homes a safer and healthier place for themselves and their families to live,” said CFO Sink. “I commend our investigators for bringing these individuals to answer for their actions.”
The investigation was initiated when Travelers of Florida Insurance Company received a bill for $2,987 from Registry Service. Before remitting payment, Travelers requested records from a lab company to confirm that the lab had prepared the report for Registry Services. Upon review, the laboratory company said the report submitted by Registry Services was fraudulent and alleged that they may have submitted other fraudulent laboratory reports.
DIF then found other homeowners in Vero Beach who had been customers of Registry Services. All totaled, the Bocks are suspected to have obtained $15,569 from their fraudulent mold remediation services. The lead agent in DIF’s investigation is Detective Anne R. Erwin. Anyone who suspects they may be a victim of this scheme should contact Det. Erwin at (561) 837-5668.
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 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.
IRS URGES TAXPAYERS TO AVOID COMMON MISTAKES
The Internal Revenue Service urges taxpayers to review their tax returns for common errors that could delay the processing of their return and refund.
Here are some ways to avoid common tax return errors:
· File electronically. If you choose to e-file, many of the common errors are avoided or corrected by the computer software. If your income is under $52,000, you may be able to e-file for free using IRS Free File.
· Use the peel-off label if you choose to mail a paper return. You may line through and make necessary corrections right on the label. Be sure to fill in your Social Security number in the box provided on the return. If you do not have a peel-off label, fill in all requested information clearly, including the Social Security numbers.
· Check only one filing status on the tax return and check the appropriate exemption boxes. Enter the correct Social Security numbers for each of those exemptions.
· Use the correct Tax Table column for your filing status.
· Double check all figures on the return. Math errors are common mistakes.
· Make sure that the financial institution routing and account numbers you have entered on the return for a direct deposit of your refund are accurate. Incorrect numbers can cause the refund to be delayed or misdirected.
· Sign and date the return. If filing a joint return, both spouses must sign and date the return.
· Attach all Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, and other forms that reflect tax withheld to the front of the return. Attach all other necessary forms and schedules.
· Remember to request the Telephone Excise Tax Refund. Don’t short-change yourself. Most households are eligible for a special, one-time only Telephone Tax Refund, typically between $30-$60, that you can request on your 2006 tax return.
· Do you owe tax? If so, enclose a check or money order made payable to the “United States Treasury” and Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, if used. Or, you may choose to pay by credit card by contacting one of the credit card service providers.
For a complete checklist and a listing of some of the most common errors, see Tax Topic 303, Checklist of Common Errors When Preparing Your Tax Return, on the IRS Web site at IRS.gov or call the IRS TeleTax number at 800-829-4477. For more information about e-file, Free File and the Telephone Tax Refund, visit IRS.gov.
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