CFO Jeff Atwater and Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti Announce Additional Arrest in ‘Operation Dirty Money’
Contact: Anna Alexopoulos
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti today announced an additional arrest as part of continuing enforcement efforts under Operation Dirty Money. Zairis Cruz, 37, employee of I & T Financial Service, LLC, located in Miami, was charged with 29 counts of money service business violations for her part in a $2.5 million, fraudulent check cashing scheme.
“Our workers’ comp fraud taskforce is continuing to crack down on check cashing schemes that divert nearly $1 billion from Florida’s economy annually,” CFO Atwater said. “These fraudsters put all businesses and employees at risk. Make no mistake, if you are involved in workers’ comp fraud you will be caught and be brought to justice.”
“When we announced the initial results of Operation Dirty Money we said it was just the beginning,” Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “It’s a pattern of organized fraud, not an isolated incident or two, and the task force will continue its work.”
The Workers’ Compensation Fraud Task Force investigation revealed that Cruz submitted 29 Currency Transaction Reports containing materially false information about the transactions to the Internal Revenue Service totaling over $2.5 million. Each fraudulent Currency Transaction Report completed and submitted to the IRS as accurate constitutes a third degree felony.
Cruz was booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail and is being held on $145,000 bond. If convicted on all charges, she faces up to 150 years in prison. The charges against Cruz will be prosecuted by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
The Workers’ Compensation Fraud Task Force was jointly created by CFO Atwater’s Division of Insurance Fraud and Sheriff Lamberti’s office in August of 2011. Through joint efforts, the task force has been able to successfully shut down 12 shell companies and identify $140 million in fraudulent transactions associated with these companies.
Anyone with information about these or any other incidents 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 $275,000 to more than 40 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.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.