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My Florida C F O
Weekly eNewsletter from Florida's Chief Financial Officer

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Florida is known for our tourism industry, our beautiful beaches and world-class attractions, but during tough economic times it is more important than ever that we diversify our economy. Over the past five years we have worked to attract intellectual capital to our state through high-wage jobs in the life sciences - Scripps, Torrey Pines, Draper Laboratory, SRI International and Sanford-Burnham, to name a few.

Visit to Claro ScientificThis week, I toured the Claro Scientific facility in St. Petersburg, a medical device research company working with the University of South Florida to develop a medical device that produces results from blood tests in five minutes or less. This new product is being tested in Africa with malaria cases. Innovative businesses such as Claro Scientific boost our economy and are developing technologies that better the lives of Floridians and people around the world.

While at the university, I met with leaders to discuss the marine industry and its impact on Florida’s economy. Finding new ways to use Florida’s natural resources to attract new and exciting business ventures needs to be a priority for all of Florida’s leaders.

These are two excellent examples of how Florida is looking to the future and working hard to attract new capital to our state. We will always be known for our beautiful beaches, but we can also be known around the world as a place for innovation, new ideas and for businesses to thrive. Diversifying our economy will ensure stable economic health for the long term.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

Fraud Work Group Meets

Division of Insurance FraudOn Thursday, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater opened the first meeting of the Money Service Business Workers’ Comp Fraud Work Group. At the Aug. 2 Cabinet meeting, CFO Atwater announced the creation of the work group to review the practices of certain bad actors in the check cashing services industry aiding in workers’ compensation premium fraud, which is putting pressure on rates and crippling the business community.

The work group heard presentations from the CFO’s Division of Insurance Fraud, the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor and the Special Investigations Unit for FCCI Insurance Group, one of the largest writers of workers’ compensation insurance in Florida. The next meeting will be held Sept. 8, and will include presentations from the check cashing and construction industries.

This fall, CFO Atwater will present the groups finding and solutions to the Governor and Cabinet, and legislative partners.

For more information about the work group or to report fraud, please visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/sitePages/agency/sections/MoneyServiceBusiness.aspx.

Hurricane Irene a Reminder to Be Prepared

Homeowner ToolkitAs we watch Hurricane Irene making a close sweep along Florida’s shores, it’s a vivid reminder to make sure you have a financial plan in place to protect your family, home and business.

Make sure your homes and businesses are protected with the Department of Financial Services’ Homeowner Toolkit, available along with other storm preparation tips at www.MyFloridaCFO.com. In addition to the toolkit, the department’s Web site contains information on how to file an insurance claim, get answers to frequently asked insurance questions, and disaster preparedness guides in both English and Spanish.

CFO Atwater offers the following tips to help Floridians prepare for an approaching storm:

  • Withdraw enough money for three to five days, as power outages and closures can limit your access.
  • Make sure prescriptions for all family members are filled.
  • Take important financial papers with you in a waterproof container if you must evacuate.
  • Gather copies of your household inventory and other documentation.
  • Write down the names, addresses and claims-reporting telephone numbers of your home and auto insurance companies.

More information regarding disaster-related insurance topics is available on the Department’s Disaster Response page at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Consumers/Storm or by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.

News of Interest

Sun Sentinel: DCF caseworker charged in $1.3 million welfare scam

The Tampa Tribune: Florida CFO: Legislature must target insurance fraud

The Florida Current: State says workers' comp fraud totals $438 million or more

Miami Herald: Deconstructing fraud

Florida Underwriter: Florida CFO Atwater Addresses Florida Insurance Issues

Palm Beach Post: Irene not stopping Citizens from writing insurance policies

The Tampa Tribune: Scott, Atwater look to fix or kill no-fault auto insurance

Arrest in Accident Clinic Money Scheme

Division of Insurance FraudFlorida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced on Thursday the arrest of Hillsborough County resident, Juan C. Borras, 55, an employee of American Best Clinic, LLC, on charges of intentionally structuring large cash withdrawals to avoid reporting or registration required by Florida law. This tactic has been linked as a common practice for automobile accident clinics suspected of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud.

“This type of scheme is often at the heart of a larger PIP fraud ring that costs Florida drivers millions of dollars in higher insurance premiums,” said CFO Atwater. “My department will continue to crack down on these types of practices and put these fraudsters behind bars.”

An investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, into American Best Clinic in Tampa revealed that Borras intentionally structured 31 large cash withdrawals from a clinic bank account in a nine-month period for a total of nearly $260,000 in withdrawals, a first degree felony under Florida law.

Borras was booked into Hillsborough County jail Tuesday and released on bond. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison. Doe Rivera, 36, a co-conspirator and employee of American Best Clinic, is currently being sought on similar charges, involving nearly $1.8 million, and a warrant for his arrest has been issued.

In an effort to develop policy ideas to combat PIP fraud, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott, appointed by CFO Jeff Atwater, has formed a PIP working group. Representatives from the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate, and various stakeholders in the PIP system are working together to formulate real solutions in response to the escalating rates that are burdening Florida’s consumers.

Anyone with information about this or any other incidents of 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.

Fraud Team Busts Accident Clinic Operator

Division of Insurance FraudFlorida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the Division of Insurance Fraud on Wednesday arrested Hialeah accident clinic operator Daysi Puigros on more than 30 felony counts stemming from allegations that she filed more than $200,000 in fraudulent Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims using the name of a deceased doctor.

Puigros used her clinic, Better Life Medical Center LLC, to submit physical evaluations allegedly performed by Juan Julio Hernandez Pombo, a doctor who she knew had died. She is charged with 15 counts of insurance fraud, 15 counts of grand theft (3rd degree), one count of operating a clinic without a license and one count of an organized scheme to defraud.

“I have no tolerance for masterminds of these types of egregious crimes,” said CFO Atwater. “We need to look at tightening laws and reforming PIP in Florida so our citizens don’t have to foot the bill for these outrageous schemes.”

Puigros owned the clinic from late 2007, until it was dissolved in late 2009. Sworn statements indicate that employees of the clinic knew the doctor had died, but Puigros continued to use his name for reports and billing and instructed the employees to do so as well. Employees were also told to make patients sign blank forms which were then fabricated by Puigros in order to fraudulently bill for medical services never rendered.

Puigros never applied for or received a license to operate the clinic, as indicated by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), nor had she applied for a license with the Department of Health (DOH). It is a third degree felony to operate without a license. Puigros was booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail and released after posting a $160,000 bond.

In an effort to develop policy ideas to combat PIP fraud, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott, appointed by CFO Jeff Atwater, will be forming a PIP working group to help formulate solutions in response to the escalating rates burdening Florida’s consumers, especially in urban areas.

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.