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

Dear Fellow Floridian:

This week, businesses and organizations around the country and globe are participating in Fraud Awareness Week. The goal is to promote awareness, detection and Fraud Infographicprevention of these often hard-to-spot crimes.

As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, it is my top priority to fight to help keep your hard-earned money in your pocket where it belongs. Unfortunately, there is a segment of Florida’s population that is working just as hard to empty your pockets – fraudsters and scam artists. Their frauds and scams range from Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud, workers’ compensation fraud, home improvement scams, debt reduction scams, fake lotteries and many more.

Click on image for a larger view.

Recognizing frauds and scams is the most important step to avoid becoming a victim. In an effort to help inform, empower and protect Florida’s families, seniors in particular, against financial scams, we have been hosting a series of workshops across the state. Our tips to avoid fraud include advice such as:

  • Be suspicious of something that sounds too good to be true.
  • Don’t pay upfront fees to companies or organizations you are unfamiliar with.
  • Only buy insurance from licensed companies and agents.
  • Don’t provide personal or confidential information by email, phone, or text to someone you don’t trust.
  • Don’t post your travel plans online.
  • Do not wire money in response to any threats.

I am proud to say that insurance fraud related arrests are up nearly 55 percent since 2010. The success of our dedicated and tireless employees to fight fraud and abuse in our state is incredible, yet the fight against fraud remains an ongoing battle.

If you suspect fraud, reporting it is easy and just a phone call away. Please call 1-800-378-0445 to report suspected fraud and help curb this growing problem that is driving up the cost of living for all Floridians. Citizens can remain anonymous, and tips that lead to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme can even collect up to $25,000 as part of our Anti-Fraud Reward Program. To date, we’ve awarded nearly $350,000 to more than 50 citizens.

Do not allow yourself to become a victim. Take charge and learn what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones. For more information about fraud and consumer protection, visit our website at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Division/Consumers/fraudscams.htm

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

News of Interest

Orlando Business Journal: Executives rank Florida's business climate among nation's best

Orlando Sentinel: Orlando job market after the recession

Tampa Bay Times: Could this year's quiet hurricane season be start of a trend?

Panama City News Herald: Oyster industry collapse nets federal help

Tampa Bay Newspapers: Florida tourism gets hooked on joys of fishing

Florida Today: Port Canaveral turns 60; what to expect in the next six decades

New York Times: U.S. Manufacturing Gains at Fastest Pace in Two Years

Washington Post: SBA’s lending programs prove increasingly valuable during economic recovery

Steve Burgess Returns as Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate

On Tuesday, CFO Atwater announced the appointment of SteveSteve Burgess Burgess as Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate.

Burgess, of Tallahassee, previously served as Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate from 1990 to 1997 and 2004 to 2007. He most recently served as the staff director of the Florida Senate’s Committee on Banking and Insurance, and he has also served as an associate and deputy public counsel. Burgess received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and his law degree from Florida State University.

“Steve’s career experience and his understanding of the insurance industry will help further our efforts to hold insurance companies accountable and ensure that Floridians are being treated fairly,” said CFO Atwater. “He is a proven advocate for Florida consumers and I am confident he will represent the best interests of Florida families.”

Arrest for Failure to Provide Workers’ Compensation Insurance

CFO Atwater on Thursday announced the arrest of Joel Trujillo on charges of violating a stop-work order and third-degree-felony workers’ compensation fraud for allegedly failing to provide adequate coverage to employees of his Naples-based construction company, K.C. Tile and Marble. The fraud was discovered when two employees of Trujillo were struck by lightning, killing one, and neither the surviving employee nor the family of the deceased received the appropriate workers’Insurance Fraud Badge compensation benefits.

“This tragedy is an example of why it is so important for companies to make sure their employees are covered by workers' compensation insurance,” said CFO Atwater. “Ignoring the workers' compensation law is not only criminal, it creates significant hardships for families that suffer from not only the loss or injury of a loved one, but also from the financial losses due to medical bills and missed work.”

In June  2013, K.C. Tile and Marble employees Jose Kenn Alexi Cruz Villamar and Robert Wiley were struck by lightning while working at a construction site in Naples, Florida. Wiley died as a result of his injuries.

Because Wiley’s employer did not hold workers’ compensation coverage, his family was not afforded death benefits potentially allowable under workers’ compensation insurance. Death benefits may have included funeral expenses, compensation to dependents and educational benefits to the surviving spouse. Benefits are payable up to a maximum of $150,000.

A workers’ compensation compliance investigator discovered that K.C. Tile failed to secure workers’ compensation insurance coverage, as required by Florida statute, while Wiley and Villamar were working for the company. For failing to comply with the law, K.C. Tile and Marble was served with a stop-work order by the Florida Division of Worker’s Compensation Compliance. When Trujillo was arrested, his business was found to be in violation of this stop-work order.

Trujillo was booked into the Collier County Jail and if convicted faces up to ten years in prison.

Florida Economic Briefs

U.S. Gross Domestic Product

The national economy continued to grow, albeit slowly, in the third quarter with U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growing by 2.8 percent between July and September.

  • Real final sales, a key measure of underlying demand and strength of the U.S. economy, grew 2.0 percent in the third quarter after a gain of 2.1 percent in the second quarter.
  • Consumer spending also increased 1.5 percent in the third quarter and is up 1.8 percent over the year.
  • While spending on large ticket items, such as automobiles, remained strong, business investment was mixed in the third quarter.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)

Florida’s Economic Activity

Statewide, economic activity continued to grow in August, led by new housing investment, auto sales, and tourism spending in Florida.

  • Metro areas reporting the largest increases in economic activity were Naples, Fort Myers, Ocala, Vero Beach, Panama City and West Palm Beach.
  • In August, statewide taxable sales totaled $26.7 billion, nearly a 10 percent increase over the year.

Source: Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR)

U.S. Unemployment Rate

Employers add 204,000 jobs in October; U.S. unemployment rate rises to 7.3 percent

  • Job growth in the past three months averaged 201,700 a month – close to the average at the start of the year and slightly higher than the 190,000 monthly average for the past 12 months
  • The job increases were led by a surge of 44,000 net new hires in the retail industry as stores began to gear up for the holiday season
  • The labor force participation rate dropped to 62.8 percent, the lowest level since March 1978

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Florida's Bottom Line on Innovative Florida - Aerospace and AviationInside the latest edition of Florida’s Bottom Line, you’ll find expert commentary on Florida’s efforts to create and lead the next generation of innovation in the aerospace and aviation industry.