Volume 8 Number 19 May 13, 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
Next week is Small Business Week, a great time to celebrate and reflect on the contributions of Florida’s small businesses. A healthy and thriving small business community is vital to Florida’s overall economic health. According to the Small Business Administration, Florida has more than two million small businesses which account for nearly half of all the private sector jobs in our state.
This summer, I will be meeting with entrepreneurs and small business owners across our state to develop strategies for supporting and growing this key sector of our state’s economy. If you would like me to visit your small business go to my Facebook page or Twitter, @jeffatwater.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
CFO Atwater said legislative reforms help keep money in the pockets of Floridians by better protecting them from financial fraud and harm, and through increased transparency and accountability in contracting and budgeting. Key reforms pursued this Session:
Kudos to Senator Don Gaetz and Representative Marti Coley for passing the Oil Spill Recovery Act this Legislative Session. Their efforts will ensure that three quarters of the settlements and fines collected as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, an estimated $36 million, will be directed into Northwest Florida to provide assistance for long-term environmental recovery and to help invigorate the economy of our Emerald Coast. I applaud our leaders for working hard for the economic health of our state. Our beaches are clean, our seafood is fresh, and our Gulf Coast is open for business.
WHO: Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force
WHAT: Meeting of the Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force
WHEN: Monday, May 16, 1 to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Senate Office Building, Room 401, 400 South Monroe St., Tallahassee, Fla. 32399
On Monday, May 16, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Chair, and Attorney General Pam Bondi, Vice Chair, will hold the second meeting of the Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force. The 11-member Strike Force will receive a briefing on legislation passed this Session that will impact Florida’s Medicaid and public assistance programs, discuss plans for mapping and data-sharing initiatives among agencies, as well as form standing committees to tackle key issues.
The Strike Force was created during the 2010 Legislative Session to increase the effectiveness of programs and initiatives that work to prevent, detect and prosecute Medicaid and public assistance fraud. CFO Atwater serves as Chair and Attorney General Bondi serves as Vice Chair of the Strike Force.
The agenda for the Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force meeting is attached. For more information about the Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force or to report fraud, please visit www.myfloridacfo.com/StrikeForce.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced on Thursday the arrests of four Polk County men for their roles in a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud scheme involving fraudulent medical billings to two insurance companies.
Luther Crispin, 34, and Glenn Moore, 30, employees of a Winter Haven massage clinic, were arrested during an undercover operation on charges of insurance fraud and patient brokering. Also arrested in the operation were Maniacline Francois, 23, and Wilson Crispin, 30, on charges of obstruction of justice.
“Organized fraud rings continue to steal Floridian’s hard-earned dollars and undermine the intent of Florida’s PIP laws,” said CFO Atwater. “Thankfully, our Legislature responded this year by giving my office additional tools to use in our state’s ongoing battle against insurance fraud.”
CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) in partnership with the Polk County Sherriff’s Office sent an undercover operative into Whitfield Chiropractic Massage Clinic, located at 2985 Avenue G NW in Winter Haven, who was subsequently treated for PIP benefits. Moore, a licensed massage therapist, then billed the insurance company for more than $1,000 in services he never provided to the undercover officer.
The investigation also revealed that Crispin paid several patients $1,000 in cash to seek medical treatments they did not need at the Wellness Center of Tampa, located at 570 Ave. J SE in Winter Haven.
All four men were booked into the Polk County Jail. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), Assurance America Insurance Company, and Bristol West Insurance Company also provided assistance in this case.
These arrests come on the heels of the Florida Legislature approving reforms to include civil penalties for those convicted of auto insurance fraud; additional funding for fraud prosecutors in Tampa and Miami, two of the top five cities in the country for questionable medical claims associated with staged accidents; and authority for the CFO to pursue grants and donations to further bolster efforts to combat financial fraud.
Anyone with information regarding suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.
This week the CFO's efforts to combat PIP fraud were featured in a segment on Fox 13 in Tampa. Here is the link to the video. http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/local/fake-crashes-drive-up-insurance-rates-05092011.
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Public Assistance Fraud (PAF), continues their commitment to combat public assistance fraud. Since transitioning to DFS in January, PAF has compiled the following statistics: 915 completed and closed investigations, 580 investigations referred for administrative sanctions, and 256 investigations referred for prosecution.
The total amount of public assistance fraud identified so far this year totals $10.6 million. Following are summaries of cases referred for action:
If you’re planning a summer vacation, don’t forget these important steps when purchasing travel insurance: