Volume 8 Number 16 April 22, 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
This week we took the Cabinet on the road over to Panama City in recognition of the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, and to give voices to all Floridians in communities along the Gulf Coast. Some may say that the purpose of the trip was to remember a tragic event, I say we were in the Panhandle to applaud the resilience of our fellow Floridians who live and work along our Gulf Coast. They haven’t given up on their communities, their businesses or their state. I commend them for sticking to your guns, fighting for their businesses and having faith in their communities to bounce back.
Following the meeting, the Governor and Cabinet participated in a friendly fishing tournament and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon on the water that concluded with eating fresh fish from the Gulf. It was a great day to show the world that the sun is shining, the fishing is good and the seafood is safe and delicious on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
More important than any message we delivered during our time in the Panhandle is—Florida’s Gulf Coast is open for business—the friendliest folks around are here to welcome you to their communities.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater announced on Wednesday that a judgment has been entered against the former owners of Aries Insurance Company, Inc. for more than $76 million. The insolvency of Aries Insurance Company left approximately 58,000 policyholders and creditors with unpaid claims when it was ordered into receivership in 2002 and two state guaranty funds were triggered to pay those claims.
The Florida Insurance Guaranty Association and the Florida Workers’ Compensation Insurance Guaranty Association have paid more than $165 million to Aries claimants so far – and that figure is expected to top more than $170 million when all claims are resolved. The judgment, handed down last week by the Complex Litigation Division of the Miami-Dade Circuit Court, follows an extensive investigation by the Department of Financial Services (Department) that determined that Marcos Fraynd and his children, Paul Fraynd, Saul Fraynd and Fanny Fraynd, diverted company funds for personal use.
“This order affirms that financial crimes against our hard-working Florida citizens will not be tolerated,” said CFO Atwater. “My Department will aggressively pursue anyone who schemes to line their own pockets through fraud and deception.”
In 2006, the Department sued the former owners and directors of Aries for diverting policyholder premium money and making illegal distributions of Aries’ assets for their personal benefit. The Department has already recovered over $20 million from other involved parties through previous lawsuits and intends to pursue the most recent judgment until the full amount is paid. Money collected from this judgment will help offset possible assessments of Florida policyholders for future insurance company insolvencies.
On May 21, 2007, the Fraynds pleaded guilty to diversion of premiums and received various sentences, including restitution, for their roles. The April 13, 2011, judgment of $76 million is just another result of steps by the Department to recover enormous losses caused by the diversion of premium and other illegal acts by the former owners and directors of Aries.
For more information, visit the Department’s website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater announced that the Northwest Florida Volunteer Firefighter Weekend Council is receiving more than $580,000 in a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The grant will provide funding to promote training and retention of volunteer firefighters in the state.
“Being a volunteer firefighter is a demanding job,” CFO Atwater said. “In the current economic climate, it is difficult to recruit and retain volunteers. This grant recognizes the incredible sacrifice that volunteer firefighters make to keep us safe and will help increase staffing in our local fire departments.”
There are nearly 6,000 volunteers in Florida with at least a Firefighter I certification. The State Fire Marshal’s office has partnered with local fire departments, the Florida Fire and Emergency Services Foundation and Northwest Florida State College to provide no-cost training to enhance the competency of volunteer firefighters. While the training is provided at no cost, trainees have been responsible for their own expenses. The grant will allow for scholarships to cover those expenses and increase the number of trained, ‘front line’ firefighters available in communities across the state.
The grant will also assist new volunteers in completing certifications by making available some of the more difficult and expensive classes such as Live Burns, Search and Rescue and Wildland Firefighting. The State Fire Marshal anticipates adding 100 training participants per year, for each of the four years of the grant. The grant also includes funding to help educate 200 chief-level officers.
While in Panama City on Tuesday for the Cabinet for a Day meeting, I was able to stop into Sweet Magnolia Deli and meet Sherri, co-owner of this delicious lunch spot. Always support your local small businesses!
Trenton Man Charged in Three House Fires
Johnathan Cumbie, 28, of Trenton was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree arson. After a single wide mobile home fire earlier this month was determined to be incendiary, Johnathan Cumbie, who was also a suspect in two previous fires, was identified as having been seen leaving the residence approximately five minutes prior to the fire. Cumbie was brought to the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office where he confessed to setting this fire, as well as involvement in the previous two fires in retaliation against the property owner for his pending eviction. Cumbie faces up to 30 years in prison on each count if convicted on the charges.
Keystone Heights Man Arrested for Setting Fire to a BBQ Restaurant
Scott E. Bowen, 44, of Keystone Heights, was arrested and charged with arson to a structure. While investigating a fire at Johnny’s BBQ in Keystone Heights, detectives found security video of a white male setting fire to items behind the business and a receipt containing Bowen’s name and address. Detectives ran the name in their database and were able to positively identify Bowen as the person in the security video. After Bowen was taken into custody he confessed to setting the fire. Bowen faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted on the charge.
With the increase in costs for basic necessities, it may seem impossible to save for your future. Saving must be a priority. Sit down and figure out what you’d like to save money for and then make a plan! Set a timeline to achieve your savings goal, and treat saving as a necessary expense, like rent or a car payment.
My office’s savings calculators can help you reach your goal: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/familyfiscalfitness/docs/calc2/indexsavings.html.