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CFO Sink Announces Third Arrest of Public Adjuster for Preying on Seniors

10/16/2009

CONTACT: Kyra Jennings and Jennifer Hirst, (850) 413-2842
 
Public Adjuster Pockets over $100,000, All Victims are Over the Age of 72 
 
TALLAHASSEE — Florida CFO Alex Sink today announced the third arrest this year of a South Florida public adjuster accused of bilking three senior citizens out of more than $100,000 in insurance compensation that was supposed to be spent to repair the victims’ homes.  Two of the victims are from Broward County and one is from Miami-Dade.  CFO Sink’s office is also seeking to revoke the scammer’s public adjuster license.
 
The most recent arrest of Bernard Benaim, 35, occurred on Tuesday, October 13, 2009.  On the same day, Benaim posted bond and was released from the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami-Dade County.  Both of Benaim’s prior arrests this year occurred in May.  Benaim is now facing three counts of grand theft and three counts of exploitation of the elderly. He faces over 100 years in prison if convicted on all of the charges.  All three arrests have stemmed from investigations by CFO Sink’s Division of Insurance Fraud.
 
“We will not tolerate anyone preying on Floridians, especially our senior citizens who are struggling just to get by and protect their homes,” said CFO Sink.  “I commend our investigators for continuing to follow up on all leads and sending a strong message to anyone who tried to defraud our seniors.”
 
CFO Sink’s Division of Agent and Agency Services has also conducted an investigation, and an administrative complaint has been filed seeking revocation of Benaim’s public adjuster license. The Broward County and Miami-Dade County State Attorneys’ Offices are handling the prosecution. 
 
On three separate occasions in 2008 and 2009, Benaim approached the victims and offered them advice on repairs and improvements to their homes.  Benaim assured the victims that he could get them money for home repairs.  He then solicited the victims to sign a contract appointing him as their public adjuster for a fee of 10 percent of the total claim payment made by the insurance company.
 
On each of the three occasions, the insurance companies sent checks to the victims, and the victims endorsed the checks to an associate of Benaim.  The associate, an appraiser, gave the checks to Benaim with the understanding that Benaim would deduct his 10 percent fee, and use the remaining funds for the victims’ home repairs.  Instead, Benaim cashed the checks and pocketed all of the insurance money. He then changed all of his contact information, including an address that turned out to be a post office box.
 
CFO Sink urges anyone who suspects they have been a victim of a similar crime, or any type of insurance fraud to report it by visiting http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fraud or by calling the Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.  Consumers who have questions about public adjusters can call CFO Sink’s Consumer Helpline at 1-850-413-3089 or 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (877-693-5236) or get information by visiting www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
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As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, CFO Alex Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services.  A successful businesswoman with nearly three decades of experience in the private sector, Sink is serving her first term as Florida's CFO.  As CFO, Sink's priorities include using her business experience to cut wasteful government spending, cracking down on financial and insurance fraud and reforming the state government's contracting practices. Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.