FLORIDA CFO ALEX SINK'S CONSUMER EVIEWS NEWSLETTER

Volume 7 Number 37 September 10, 2010

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Dear Floridian:

Even though nine years have passed since the 9/11 terror attacks, we will never forget the remarkable acts of bravery by emergency responders who risked their lives to save others.

Tomorrow I’m joining local firefighters and elected officials in Orlando for a candlelight vigil honoring the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the aftermath of that terrible day, and I ask all Floridians to take some time this weekend to show thanks for the law enforcement, emergency responders and armed forces who work here at home and overseas to protect us from harm.

Sincerely,

Alex Sink
CFO
State of Florida


CFO Alex Sink Discusses Florida Economy with European Union Consuls General in Miami

Florida CFO Alex Sink on Friday met with consuls general of the European Union to discuss the important economic impact of these foreign trade relationships and investments to diversifying the state’s economy, creating jobs and bolstering Florida’s foreign exports. In attendance were consuls general from France, Spain, Germany, the UK, Netherlands, Italy and Greece.

“The EU consuls general encourage foreign trade and business opportunities in our state, and I appreciate their partnership,” said CFO Alex Sink. “With one in four real estate purchases going to international buyers in Florida, I look forward to working with the consuls general to ensure that Florida’s real estate opportunities are highlighted as a means of driving business here as well.”

According to Enterprise Florida’s most recent numbers, Florida ranks fifth among U.S. states in total exports, and 13 percent, or $7.5 billion worth, are exported to European countries. Europe also accounts for 49 percent of foreign direct investment in Florida’s economy, an investment of $16.5 billion which creates 162,000 jobs in Florida. Each of the European countries represented at Friday’s meeting is home to major companies which buy Florida’s exports, invest in Florida’s economy, and provide jobs to Florida’s citizens.


CFO Sink Announces Arrest of Miami Woman for Cashing In on “Citizens” Insurance

Florida CFO Alex Sink on Friday announced the arrest of Aylin Hernandez, 23, of Miami, for fraudulently diverting mail and stealing payments intended for Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Hernandez was arrested Friday morning and booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami-Dade County on charges of organized fraud and grand theft. The arrest results from an investigation by CFO Sink’s Division of Insurance Fraud, with assistance by Citizens Property Insurance Corporations’ Special Investigations Unit, and if convicted, she faces up to 45 years behind bars.

“This fraudster is getting exactly what she deserves—serious jail time,” said CFO Sink. “I am grateful for the work of my investigators and Citizens’ Special Investigations Unit for working together to put her away. Would-be scammers out there need to know that this kind of action will not be tolerated.”

Working with investigators from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, CFO Sink’s Division of Insurance Fraud established that Hernandez created her own corporation named Citizens Property Insurance, Inc., and opened an account under that name at Check Cashing USA.

Using information she obtained while working as a clerk in several local insurance agencies, Hernandez sent invoices to various law offices and title companies, which were handling homeowners insurance escrow and service payments. The victims, believing their payments were going to the legitimate Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, sent eight checks totaling over $12,000, which were then cashed by Hernandez.


CFO Alex Sink Announces Arrests of Two Officers of Affiliated South Florida Insurance Companies

Supplying Fraudulent Information Lands Two South Floridians in Jail

Florida CFO Alex Sink announced on Wednesday the culmination of an extensive insurance fraud investigation with the arrest of Luis M. Espinosa, 60, and Rene M. Cambert, 55, on eight first degree felony counts each for filing false or misleading financial statements for First Commercial Insurance Company (FCIC) and its affiliated company, First Commercial Transportation and Property Insurance Company (FCTPIC) with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). Espinosa was the president and CEO and Cambert was the vice president and chief operating officer of FCIC/ FCTPIC at the time the companies were ordered into receivership for liquidation in 2009. Each felony count carries a potential 30-year sentence.

Three DFS divisions, the Division of Insurance Fraud, Division of Agent and Agency Services, and Division of Rehabilitation and Liquidation, in cooperation with the Office of Insurance Regulation worked on this case resulting in the arrests of the two FCIC officers for filing false and misleading reports of the companies’ financial condition. The arrests occurred after the Division of Insurance Fraud’s Major Case Squad was able to prove regulatory reporting documents signed by both Espinosa and Cambert were fraudulent, including quarterly statements declaring the companies were maintaining the minimum capital and surplus of $4 million required to meet Florida’s statutory obligations as an insurance provider. The investigation revealed that numerous documents filed indicated that the companies had more reserve assets than they actually possessed. These findings confirmed that Espinosa and Cambert knowingly signed fraudulent notarized documents, and that both knew the requirements of law regarding their companies’ assets. It was discovered that the worthless cash assets, totaling more than $10 million, impaired the capital of both companies.

In July 2009, FCIC/FCTPIC were ordered into receivership for the purpose of rehabilitation and subsequently liquidated in August. After the companies were placed in receivership, the Division of Insurance Fraud opened a criminal investigation based on the questionable financial reports sent to OIR by Espinosa and Cambert. Further investigation of bank records confirmed some documents were falsified.


Department of Financial Services: Your One Stop Financial Resource

Law Enforcement Investigator Anissa Baker, Division of Insurance Fraud, and Detective Jerry Baker, State Fire Marshal, along with Outreach Coordinator Tiffany Reeves represented CFO Alex Sink at the Jacksonville Sheriff Office annual safety fair last month, educating consumers about the many services offered by the Department of Financial Services.

Representatives from the Division of Insurance Fraud talked about the high cost that insurance fraud adds to insurance premiums through Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud and workers’ compensation fraud, highlighting the workers’ compensation whistleblower website where citizens can report alleged violations.

Consumers learned how to search the Department’s online unclaimed property database to find dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings that may belong to them.

Everyone is encouraged to search for unclaimed money and misplaced valuables at www.FLTreasureHunt.org. By phone, contact the Bureau of Unclaimed Property at 1-88-VALUABLE. Citizens have the right to claim their property any time at no cost.

Hurricane safety tips were provided to help consumers prepare for hurricane season and financial literacy information was given to help set manageable financial goals to ensure financial security. Find links to helpful financial resources on the CFO’s Family Fiscal Fitness web site.

Visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com to discover the wide range of services offered by the Department of Financial Services.


The Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Recognizes September as Leukemia & Lymphoma Awareness Month

Terry Butler, Interim Insurance Consumer Advocate

In recognition of September as Worldwide Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate would like to advise consumers on obtaining preventative care.

Leukemia is a malignant disease of the bone marrow and blood. An estimated 259,889 people in the United States are living with, or are in remission from, leukemia. An estimated 43,050 new cases of leukemia will be diagnosed in the United States this year. The most common cancer in children 1 to 7 years old is acute lymphocytic leukemia. The disease accounts for about 31 percent of all cancers found in children.

Consumers should note that anyone can get leukemia. Leukemia affects males and females of all ages, and the cause of the disease is not known. Signs of acute leukemia may include easy bruising or bleeding, paleness or easy fatigue, recurrent minor infections or poor healing of minor cuts. These symptoms and signs are not specific to leukemia and may be caused by other more common conditions. They do, however, warrant medical evaluation. The diagnosis of leukemia requires specific blood tests, including an examination of cells in the blood and marrow. Thus, obtaining preventative health care is vital to combating the disease.

Consumers that enroll in a new health plan on or after September 23, 2010, can expect to receive preventative services without having to pay a co-pay, co-insurance or deductible. Consumers will have easier access to the following:

Consumers with children can expect to have easier access to a comprehensive set of preventative care services as well. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), these services will be available in new health plans for children without cost-sharing. The preventative services that will be available to children are as follows:

For more information on preventative health care services, consumers can visit www.healthcare.gov, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Consumers with any additional questions regarding preventative health care coverage should contact the Division of Consumer Services within the Department of Financial Services on-line at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/ or by phone at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236), toll-free in Florida, and (850) 413-3089 from out of state.

The Insurance Consumer Advocate is appointed by Florida CFO Alex Sink and is committed to finding solutions to insurance issues facing Floridians, calling attention to questionable insurance practices, promoting a viable insurance market responsive to the needs of Florida’s diverse population and assuring that rates are fair and justified.


Consumer Corner: Insuring a Vacant Home

As the housing market continues to struggle, some homeowners with hard-to-sell properties choose to move on, whether to pursue a new job, downsize or simply relocate. But it's very risky financially to leave your home vacant unless you have verified your homeowners insurance will continue to cover it. Vacant homes have an increased potential for vandalism, fire, or flooding from burst pipes. Most insurance companies do not want to insure them.

Typically, homeowners insurance policies contain a provision that automatically changes or excludes coverage if the home is vacant (residents and belongings gone) or unoccupied (residents gone, belongings remain) for a specified period, often 60 days. Some policies might automatically shift to a different amount of coverage (e.g., liability insurance only) after a specific number of days unoccupied, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

The Florida Department of Financial Services recommends that you take the following steps to ensure your vacant home is covered:

Consumers who have any additional questions regarding homeowners insurance should contact the Division of Consumer Services within the Department of Financial Services online at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/ or by phone at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236). If you have questions about terms used in this article, visit the Department’s online Insurance Library.


My Family CFO: Computer Hardware Changes as Technology Evolves

A computer is anything that transforms information in a purposeful way. A personal computer (PC) is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and sales price make it useful for an individual. From a desktop to a Smartphone, today’s computing abilities are only limited by budget, technical ability and imagination.

Desktops and laptops are two familiar varieties of computer hardware. But have you heard of all-in-ones, nettops, netbooks, tablets and e-readers? Here is a quick look at the latest in computing hardware. You may be surprised at the small cost to go wireless, portable and high speed.

Individual needs for technology vary across the spectrum of available hardware. An avid and serious gamer will invest a lot in a performance desktop PC – a high end model can cost $7000. But the casual email/web user can usually get along fine with a $300 netbook.

Netbooks are a rapidly evolving category of small, lightweight and inexpensive laptop computers suited for accessing Web-based applications and general computing. Starting under $300, the netbook is a good starter when your child is ready. Some data carriers offer netbooks free of charge with an extended wireless service card contract.

A category popularized by the iMac is the all-in-one, a complete computer housed in an over-sized monitor. Many manufacturers are now making this style of computer, some with touch screens. Space savings and fewer cables combine with sleek styling for an attractive decorator package. From $750 and up, this look may well fit your kitchen counter or small desk. High speed, lots of memory and expansive monitor size make all-in-ones a good fit for a wide variety of users.

A nettop is a small, inexpensive, low-wattage desktop CPU box, designed for basic tasks such as surfing the Internet, accessing web-based applications, document processing, and audio/video playback. This compact PC favors size over performance, thriving wherever a quiet, compact chassis and HD-friendly connectivity is needed over processing power. The nettop starts under $300, but remember a monitor is needed.

A tablet computer, or simply tablet, is a complete computer contained in a flat touch screen format that uses a stylus, digital pen, or fingertip as the primary input device instead of a keyboard or mouse. The iPad ($499) is a popular version of the tablet.

The e-reader is efficient as a screen method for reading documents in pdf form. The Kindle is the pioneer in the e-reader market, starting at $139 and able to store many volumes in memory for the newest way to read a book.


Florida Housing Help Website and Workshops

The Florida Housing Help website can help connect struggling Floridians who may be at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure with assistance. For a schedule of workshops that include community partners and resources and offer great information, read the Florida Housing Help Calendar.


Hurricane Checklist: Preparation is Key!

You have completed your back-to-school shopping and have your tailgate supplies, but are you prepared for a natural disaster?

Join us for a Disaster Preparation workshop to make sure you and your family are ready for a hurricane or other natural disaster. Learn how to Insure, Secure and Recover:

Insure – Make sure your property is adequately covered.

Secure – Gather important documents in a safe place and know your evacuation plan.

Recover – Contact your insurance company and know your rights when mediating losses.

Find an event in your area by visiting the Consumer Services Calendar of Consumer Outreach Programs located on the Department web site. If you would like to arrange for a presentation to a group or club, please contact the Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089.


Safeguard Our Seniors Helps Protect Floridians

Every day, hundreds of Floridians fall victim to financial fraud. Many of these victims are trusting seniors who were misled by unscrupulous agents and scam artists into making risky or inappropriate financial investments, including annuities and reverse mortgages. In response, CFO Sink created the Safeguard Our Seniors Task Force to develop solutions to better protect Florida seniors from falling victim to financial fraud.

The Department of Financial Services offers Safeguard Our Seniors workshops to help seniors guard against financial fraud and scams. Read the Safeguard Our Seniors Calendar of Events.

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's Consumer eViews 1-877-MY-FL-CFO