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CFO Atwater Announces 16 Arrests for Workers’ Compensation Fraud and Unlicensed Contracting Following Undercover Multi-Agency Sting

6/20/2014

Contact: Chris Cate
(850) 413- 2842
 
TALLAHASSEE - CFO Jeff Atwater today 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 Bureau 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. The arrested individuals include:
 
• Michael Lynn Burkett, Jr.
• Casey Thomas Morris
• Charles Henry Duff
• Daniel Thomas Richards
• Richard Marziano
• Brian Francis Marlow
• Robert Bruce Dimenna
• Jefferey Way Freed
• Henry Willmore Delos Santos
• Efrain Garcia
• Danny Wayne Huddleston
• Robert Franklin Vaughn
• Ken Eugene Cromer
• Jeffrey George Caridi
• Damon Patrick Ginter
• Michael J. Connor
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.

 
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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.