CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Arrest of Orlando Attorney Charged With Stealing Personal Injury Settlement Money
Contact: Chris Cate
(850) 413- 2842
TALLAHASSEE – CFO Jeff Atwater today announced the arrest of Orlando Attorney Raymond (Ramon) Ismael Melendez of the Melendez Law Firm, P.A. for allegedly stealing insurance settlement proceeds totaling nearly $80,000 from three personal injury clients. The charges allege that between February 2011 and June 2012, Melendez withheld notification of the settlement agreements from his clients and hid the money for personal use.
“Attorneys are trained to earn the trust of their clients and serve their clients’ interests, not steal the settlements they are hired to secure,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “Thanks to the dedicated work of law enforcement and our investigators, this man can no longer defraud the system or the public’s trust.”
An investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that on three separate occasions, in cases against three different insurance companies, Melendez negotiated settlements on behalf of his client and deposited the settlement checks into his public service fund trust account. Rather than notifying the client of the settlement, Melendez lied and told each client that no settlement had been reached and their cases remained in litigation. The money was then moved from the trust account and converted to Melendez for personal use.
Melendez is charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud, one count of grand theft second degree and two counts of grand theft third degree. He was booked into the Orange County Jail and remains the subject of ongoing investigations. Anyone who feels they may have fallen victim to his actions is encouraged to contact the Division of Insurance Fraud’s Orlando field office at (407) 835- 4402. 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.
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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 state spending.