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

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 CFO Atwater at the Cabinet meetingfraud 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 with consumers CFO Atwater and ICA Westcott with Governor at Orlando PIP consumer meeting.in 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 report produced 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.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

News of Interest

Sun-Sentinel: Florida leaders demand insurers fork over fraud data

News Service of Florida: Solutions to Workers' Comp Scam Prove Elusive

Winter Haven News-Chief: Cabinet wants answers from Citizens

Sun-Sentinel: Florida Cabinet: PIP creates $910 million 'fraud tax'

Sun-Sentinel: Forecast: More jobs, higher wages are coming to South Florida in 2012

CNN Money: Millions of homeowners eligible for foreclosure review

St. Petersburg Times: Subsidizing nuclear plants in Florida runs counter to capitalism

Time Magazine: Why NASA's Fire Sale Is Good News for Florida

Palm Beach Post: Boeing to build spacecrafts at shuttle hangar

Sunshine State News: Home Run for Florida: U.S. Visas to Foreigners Buying Houses

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 Dollar plant - growingabout 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 www.MyFloridaCFO.com.

Moving Forward after a FloodDisaster Preparedness

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 breathing conditions.
  • 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 toys.
  • Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact with flood water.

For more disaster tips, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com.

Four Miami Fraudsters Arrested in Staged Accident Scheme Fraud Detective Badge

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 company.

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 companies.

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 AdvocateFlorida’s 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.