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My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

As Florida's Chief Financial Officer, I make it a top priority every day to help keep your hard-earned money in your pockets, 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. Insurance Fraud Badge

Frauds and scams can take many forms. One of many frauds we are fighting against every day is Personal Injury Protection fraud, also known as PIP fraud. Yesterday, I was proud to announce that our investigators’ efforts led to the arrests of three individuals in Fort Lauderdale and the conviction of a Jacksonville man. 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.

Since January 2011, the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud has made nearly 2,000 PIP fraud arrests. Insurance fraud convictions for the current fiscal year total 1,225, a 17 percent increase over the previous year.

Frauds and Scams - Your Guide to Outsmarting the Scam ArtistsRecognizing frauds and scams is the most important step to avoid becoming a victim. Here are a few tips to help you take charge and protect yourself and your loved ones from fraud:

  • 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.

For more information about fraud and consumer protection, visit our website at www.myfloridacfo.com/Division/Consumers/fraudscams.htm.

Anyone who suspects insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded nearly $342,000 to more than 50 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

News of Interest

Sun Sentinel: Three accused of staging Fort Lauderdale crash to collect insurance

UF News: Florida consumer confidence jumps to post-recession high

Tampa Bay Business Journal: Brandon ranks No. 10 best American city for working women

Miami Herald: Tourism and investment spending lead Florida’s economic recovery

Three More PIP Fraud Arrests and a PIP Fraud Conviction

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater recently announced the arrests of three individuals in Fort Lauderdale for their involvement in a staged accident that resulted in fraudulent Personal Injury Protection (PIP) billings in excess of $80,000. He also announced the conviction of David Torres, a recruiter for Indian Rehabilitation Center in Jacksonville, on eight counts of participating in staged accidents.Insurance Fraud Badge

"PIP fraud schemes drive up auto insurance rates for all Floridians, which is why we are working day and night to prevent it from happening in the future and hold the fraudsters who have broken the law accountable," said CFO Atwater. "I applaud our investigators for their diligence in bringing these fraudsters to justice."

An investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud discovered that a U-Haul truck that supposedly crashed into a parked Dodge Caravan with eight passengers was in fact a staged accident. The occupants of the caravan filed fraudulent claims in excess of $80,000 from multiple clinics in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Claudio Boyett, Leslie Sanchez Martinez and Claudia Hoy have all been charged with insurance fraud, and more arrests resulting from this incident are expected.

Torres helped arrange staged accidents and subsequently file fraudulent PIP claims for the participants through Indian Rehabilitation Center to their insurance providers. He has been ordered to pay more than $109,000 in restitution to eight victim insurance companies. He was also sentenced to five years in the Florida state prison system. Since his arrest, he has been cooperating with law enforcement, which has led to additional arrests and convictions.

Anyone with information of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $342,000 to more than 50 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.

16 Arrests for Workers' Compensation Fraud and Unlicensed Contracting

CFO Jeff Atwater recently announced 16 arrests for workers' compensation fraud and unlicensed contracting following a three-day undercover operation in Sarasota County. The operation was led by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud and Workers' Compensation Key CoverageBureau of Compliance in partnership with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Venice Police Department and City Building and Code Enforcement, along with the Sarasota State Attorney’s Office.

"These illegitimate contractors are a danger to their employees who are working without the protection of workers’ compensation as well as a danger to homeowners who are often left with unfinished jobs, faulty construction, unpermitted projects and no recourse but to pay more to hire a legitimate contractor to fix their home properly," said CFO Atwater. "I am proud of our partners for helping put a stop to this illegal, costly and dangerous practice."

Florida law sets specific rules and guidelines for obtaining professional licensure, and the people who have met these requirements are held to professional standards. Investigators with the Division of Insurance Fraud and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation routinely work to combat unlicensed activity throughout Florida.

"Unlicensed activity can pose serious financial and physical harm to consumers as well as threaten the jobs of honest working professionals," said DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson. "Consumers should always verify an individual's license prior to hiring them for any work on their home or business."

"This was an excellent opportunity for state and local officials to work together to ensure not only the integrity of construction industry but also that the work done on our citizens’ homes is safe, correct, and cost effective," said Venice Police Chief Tom McNulty.

If convicted, the arrested individuals face up to five years prison time for each workers’ compensation charge, and an additional one year for a first time unlicensed contractor charge; five years if a repeat offender. Each arrestee was also cited and fined by City of Venice Code Enforcement for unlicensed contracting.

Anyone with information about suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded nearly $342,000 to more than 50 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.

Consumers can verify professional licenses online at www.myfloridalicense.com. Additionally, Floridians should report any suspected unlicensed activity by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com, calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1-866-532-1440 or by downloading the DBPR Mobile app.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida’s economy adds 218,800 jobs over the year, unemployment rate at 6.3 percent in May
Job creation in Florida remained strong in May with nearly 219,000 new jobs added over the year and an annual job growth rate of 2.9 percent. Florida’s unemployment rate has fallen 1.2 percentage points over the year. Florida’s labor force also grew for the fifth consecutive month in May as more people began actively seeking work, a positive sign that more Floridians are able to find quality job opportunities and provide for their families.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Florida home prices, sales up in May
Florida’s housing market continued to improve in May with the median sales price of a single-family home rising to $180,000 last month. The volume of high-priced home sales and available housing inventory also increased statewide in May. When accounting for foreclosure- and short-sales, the median sales price of a traditional single-family home in Florida was $216,000 in May, up 4 percent over the year.
Source: Florida Realtors

Florida's Bottom Line on SportsFlorida's Bottom Line

Each year, Florida is host to more than 1,800 professional sports events as well as thousands of other sporting games and tournaments statewide, including amateur and college sports, golf, fishing and hunting, boating and yachting, and motorsports. The innovation spurred by this, and the drive to create the world’s leading sports systems, are responsible for the development of new tools and technologies that better connect us, improve our quality of life, and allow us to explore and experience sports in more exciting, enriching ways. Inside the Spring edition of Florida’s Bottom Line, you’ll find expert commentary on the innovation and advancement happening within the world of sports right here in Florida.