Dear Fellow Floridian:
I have learned many things during my ten months as CFO, but none
more apparent than the pressure that various types of insurance
put on Florida’s families and businesses. I have made it one of my
core missions as CFO to stamp out this fraud and give our businesses
and consumers the relief they deserve in their premiums.
This week, our Insurance Consumer Advocate, Robin Westcott, gave a
presentation to the
Governor and Cabinet about the impact auto insurance fraud is having on
Florida’s consumers. There is no doubt that rates are going up and Floridians
are being taken to the cleaners by the fraud that has infiltrated this system.
As the next step and to hear directly from consumers, Governor Scott and I met
some of the hardest hit areas in our state. One thing is for sure - bold action
is needed this legislative session before auto insurance becomes simply
unaffordable and Floridians choose to go without - putting us all at risk.
I was also graciously invited to speak to the House Insurance and Banking
Committee about certain bad actors who are aiding in workers’ compensation
premium fraud, which is putting pressure on rates and crippling our business
community. My recommendations to the committee are based on the
by a work group composed of all interested parties, which met this summer to
develop policy solutions to root out fraud and help stabilize rates.
With the 2012 Legislative Session just around the corner, now’s the time to
stop throwing consumers to the wolves. Thank you to Senators Joe Negron and
Garrett Richter, and Representatives Jim Boyd, Dorothy Hukill and Bryan Nelson
for recognizing the impact this issue has on Florida consumers and for their
efforts to help stamp out these types of fraud.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Women’s Small Business Workshops Are a Statewide Success
Throughout October, CFO Jeff Atwater’s Division of Consumer
Services traveled across Florida to speak to women small
business owners and entrepreneurs
how to make sure their businesses are in great financial shape.
Workshops were held in Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale and
drew hundreds of attendees, with the assistance of great partners - local
agencies and organizations that support the business community.
Excerpts from the workshops will be posted on CFO Atwater’s financial
education Web site, Your Money Matter$, in the coming weeks.
For more information and resources visit
Moving Forward after a Flood
Rain inundated several counties in South Florida last week,
causing many homes and businesses to flood, water logging cars
and sending some residents to nearby shelters.
Flood damage is not covered under a traditional homeowners
insurance policy and must be purchased as a separate policy. All
flood insurance policies are underwritten by the National Flood
Insurance Program and thus the cost for flood insurance is the
same from every agent or agency.
Here are some steps to take after flooding has occurred:
- If your home was flooded, assume it is contaminated with
mold, which increases health risks for those with asthma, allergies or other
- Open the doors and windows. If the house was closed more
than 48 hours, let it air out before staying inside for any length of time.
- Check the ceiling and floor for signs of sagging. Water may
be trapped in the ceiling or floors and may be unsafe to walk on.
Cleaning Your Home
- Throw out all food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood
waters and mud, including canned goods and containers with food or liquid that
have been sealed shut. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or
disinfected such as mattresses, carpet, cosmetics, stuffed animals and baby
- Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact
with flood water.
For more disaster tips, visit
Four Miami Fraudsters Arrested in Staged Accident Scheme
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater announced the arrests of four
suspects in Miami for insurance fraud and faking an auto
accident. Roberto Martinez, 27, Yesenia Toscano, 21, both of
Hialeah Gardens, and Rafael Javier Arroyo, 19, of Hialeah were
charged with multiple counts including insurance fraud, grand
theft and staging an auto accident. Concepcion Olmos Valls, 53,
of Miami was charged with staging an auto accident. One
participant, who had decided not to continue with the scheme,
was later assaulted by individuals believed to be associated
with one of the accident clinics as possible retaliation.
“Staged accident schemes like this are undermining the intent of Florida’s no
fault laws and are taking money out of the pockets of honest, hardworking
Floridians,” said CFO Atwater. “Our dedicated fraud investigators are cracking
down on this costly and increasingly dangerous crime that is costing Florida’s
consumers millions of dollars each year in increased auto insurance premiums.”
An investigation conducted by the Department of Financial Services’ Division
of Insurance Fraud revealed that Martinez organized a staged accident on June
27, 2011, involving four participants. Each participant was then referred to
multiple clinics, including C&C Rehabilitation Center, Dade Wellness Center, MG
Therapeutic Rehabilitation Corp., Matanzas System Corp., and ORD Medical Center
in Miami, and Brothers Taylor Rehabilitation Center and Viva X-Ray Medical
Diagnostic Center, both in Hialeah. Multiple clinics were used to further game
the system and maximize the amount of money paid by each participant’s insurance
As a result of this one staged accident, the clinics submitted more than
$77,000 in fraudulent insurance claims to 21st Century and Geico insurance
Martinez was out on bond following a prior arrest on April 19, 2011, for
organizing a staged accident in March 2008. His bond for the previous arrest was
revoked and he remains in custody until trial.
Additional arrests are expected. If convicted, Martinez, Toscano, and Arroyo
face up to 150 years in prison. Valls could also receive up to 15 years in
prison if convicted.
Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott, appointed by CFO Atwater, has
convened a working group of interested parties to gather and develop ideas to
address the fraud and other potential alternatives to Florida’s current no-fault
system. The working group’s report will be completed and delivered to state
policymakers in the coming weeks.
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.