Volume 8 Number 21 May 27, 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
As many of you spend time with friends and family this Memorial Day weekend, I hope you will take the time to recognize what this holiday is all about—remembering the men and women who lost their lives protecting and defending our freedoms.
It takes a tremendous amount of courage and selflessness to serve in the armed forces. The people who serve our country defend our Nation with unflinching devotion and put themselves aside to work toward a common goal of a brighter future for America.
In every city in Florida and in every city across the country, flags will be flown this weekend in honor of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while defending our country and its values. Please join me this Memorial Day in remembering the brave heroes who gave their lives for the freedom we all cherish.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater joined the Florida Marlins and Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) on the field Saturday to announce the “Protect Your Home Base” initiative, encouraging Floridians to prepare and protect their homes and families before the beginning of hurricane season on June 1. This signature event is one of several highlighted in FLASH’s 2011 Great Hurricane Blowout preparedness campaign to raise awareness about strengthening homes and safeguarding families. The event took place at the Sun Life Stadium before the start of the Florida Marlins vs. Tampa Bay Rays baseball game.
“Floridians know all too well the disastrous impact a hurricane or tropical storm can have on their homes and families,” said CFO Atwater. “Major League Baseball and hurricane safety have a lot in common. To be successful at either you have to prepare, plan and most importantly, execute the plan. Doing so will help you protect your home base this hurricane season.”
“We have learned that combining fun with useful information is the best way to promote disaster safety,” said FLASH President/CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “Joining CFO Atwater and the Marlins in “Protect Your Home Base” is a home run for Floridians who will leave the stadium today with a new and fun way to get ready for hurricane season.”
“We are extremely pleased to team up with CFO Atwater and FLASH in this great initiative as hurricane season approaches,” said Marlins SVP of Communications and Broadcasting, P.J. Loyello. “Educating our fans on the importance of preparedness and safeguarding families is important for our entire community, and there’s no better place to do so than at a ballgame between our two Florida Major League teams.”
CFO Atwater threw out the first pitch of the game and met with players and fans to educate them on the importance of disaster preparedness. Representatives from FLASH were also on hand to distribute flyers directing fans to the Great Hurricane Blowout website - www.greathurricaneblowout.org - for a chance to win a lightning protection system, gift cards to The Home Depot, a Kohler whole home generator including installation from the Home Depot and much more.
I had the chance to tour the BMZ Generators facility in Pompano Beach this week with owners Freddy Pereira and Jim Finck.
BMZ Generators provides energy saving generators, pumps and custom equipment used for general industrial purposes, the marine industry and different military entities.
This week I had the opportunity to meet with Chief Williamson and firefighters from the Winter Garden Fire Rescue Department. It is also a pleasure to meet with the men and women who selflessly protect this community each day.
On Tuesday, I spoke to two groups regarding property insurance issues. An insurance market that fosters competition gives Floridians more choices, and more choices lead to better prices and a more innovative marketplace. We have to ensure that we create the conditions that allow for a more competitive environment.
I was also invited to speak at the Florida Tax Watch Spring Board meeting in Coral Gables and shared with attendees my top initiatives including creating a streamlined system so that each of you can easily keep an eye on how your money is being spent by the state. It is my goal to continue to work to streamline government and ensure accountability through transparency, a mission I share with TaxWatch.
It was also an honor to perform the installation ceremony for the newly elected officers of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. We have to work together with our local governments in order for Florida to continue to prosper and create a more business friendly environment.
As part of a statewide crackdown on identity theft and workers’ compensation fraud, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrests of three Lake Worth men for using stolen social security numbers to fraudulently gain employment. Investigations continue into the possible fraudulent use of the same social security numbers by other individuals across the state.
“These individuals stole the identities of honest Floridians and used them to benefit from workers’ compensation coverage they were not entitled to,” said CFO Atwater. “Further, they may have tarnished the credit of innocent, hardworking citizens, and we are determined to pursue all leads to bring everyone involved in this scam to justice.”
Detectives with the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud arrested Wilmer Antonio Reyes, Victor M. Hernandez, and Arturo Arce while at work at Top Cut Lawn Service, located at 6723 Park Lane in Lake Worth. Each is charged with workers’ compensation fraud. They were taken into custody without incident and booked in to the Palm Beach County Jail. If convicted, they face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Four other employees were also determined to be using stolen social security numbers and warrants are being sought for their arrests.
The owners of the stolen social security cards have been contacted and advised to check their credit reports to determine whether their identities have been fraudulently used by these individuals, or others, to obtain credit or other types of benefits.
The DFS Division of Consumer Services offers free Identity Theft workshops. To find or request a workshop in your area, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/consumers or call 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.
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.
Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater announced the arrests of Rodney Michael Lane and John Robert Reid of Frostproof after a joint investigation involving the Division of State Fire Marshal’s Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations (BFAI) determined the two men set fire to a residence, causing approximately $40,000 in damage, in an attempt to cover up a burglary.
“There is no excuse for intentionally endangering the lives of others,” said CFO Atwater. “I’m proud of the work done by my office and Polk County’s fire and law enforcement professionals to bring these individuals to justice.”
On November 29, 2010, Polk County Fire Rescue and Frostproof Fire Department responded to a structure fire on McClellan Road in Frostproof and requested the assistance of the Department of Financial Services Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigation (BFAI) to determine the cause of the fire. The BFAI determined that the fire was intentionally set to conceal a burglary. Read more...
On May 19, 2011, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office received a tip about multiple burglaries that occurred at residences in the Frostproof area, specifically mentioning a fire in November 2010. The tip led to the arrests of Rodney Michael Lane and John Robert Reid who were booked at the Polk County Jail on charges of arson and tampering with evidence. If convicted, Reid and Lane could face up to 35 years in jail. Further charges were also made by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for multiple burglaries and grand thefts from this case and other cases.
To report arson, call 1-877-No-Arson (1-877-662-7766). A reward of up to $5,000 may be paid for a tip that leads directly to an arrest and conviction.
The Department of Financial Services’ Divisions of Agent and Agency Services and Legal Services have taken over 500 disciplinary actions against insurance professionals and other entities so far this year. The following are highlights of two actions this past week:
More details on these actions can be found on the department’s Division of Agent and Agency Services website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Agents.
Take control of your budget by taking control of your gas tank. Rather than filling up the tank again, look for activities close to your home that you can walk or ride a bicycle to. Challenge yourself to drive less and use the money that you save on gas to go towards accomplishing one of the following financial goals instead.