CFO Jeff Atwater Announces the Arrest of a Former State Correctional Officer for Over $2.7 Million in Workers’ Compensation Fraud
Contact: Anna Alexopoulos
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the arrest of David Brownell, 47, a former corrections officer at the Glades Correctional Institution on a charge of first-degree workers’ compensation fraud for allegedly faking illness to fraudulently collect over $2.7 million in claims payments.
“It is very disheartening to think that someone sworn to uphold the law may have violated it, and to such a costly degree,” said CFO Atwater. “The cost of insurance fraud comes directly out of the pockets of hard-working, honest Floridians and we will continue to pursue and bring to justice anyone we suspect of committing such crimes.”
As a State of Florida employee, Brownell was paid for his claim by the State of Florida’s Division of Risk Management, which reports that over $2.7 million, including more than $563,000 for alleged lost income, was paid to Brownell.
An investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that Brownell filed a workers’ compensation claim in 1995 claiming that his work at the institution had exposed him to rats and rat feces resulting in respiratory problems and 24-hour-a-day dependency on oxygen. Extensive video surveillance over a period of several years revealed that not only was Brownell not oxygen-dependant but was able to play guitar in a band, attend a concert, drive, and smoke cigarettes. Brownell’s statements under oath about his physical abilities contradicted behaviors captured during the video surveillance. Brownell surrendered Wednesday on the charge, wearing his oxygen mask.
Brownell was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail and released after posting bond set at $50,000. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison. The charges against Brownell will be prosecuted by the dedicated Workers’ Compensation Fraud Prosecutor at the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office.
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 $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.