CFO Atwater’s Fraud-Fighting Efforts Successful in First Quarter of 2017
For Immediate Release:
May 19, 2017
Contact: Ashley Carr
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced that fraud-fighting efforts led by the Department of Financial Services took 322 law-breaking fraudsters off the streets during the first quarter of 2017. The Department’s anti-fraud efforts focus on the areas of public assistance and insurance fraud, arson, and the theft or abuse of state funds.
“Fraud of any form drives up costs for all Floridians, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done to hold the line on fraud in our state,” said CFO Atwater. “Our efforts are amplified by the partnerships we’ve forged with local law enforcement agencies, and I hope these results send a shockwave to other would-be criminals that they should think twice before committing a crime.”
The Department’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) oversees insurance fraud and workers’ compensation fraud investigations, as well as those handled by the Office of Fiscal Integrity, which siphons out waste, fraud and the abuse of state funds.
Between January 1 and March 31, 2017, these units made 260 arrests and made nearly 300 case presentations to state attorneys across Florida. Additionally, 230 successful prosecutions were secured during this time.
One notable arrest was of a South Florida woman who hit herself over the head with a broken sprinkler unit in order to file for workers’ compensation. Surveillance footage secured by investigators proved that the woman had not been injured by the falling object as she claimed.
Public Assistance Fraud
The Department’s Division of Public Assistance Fraud safeguards Floridians against public assistance fraud by aggressively fighting against the improper use of public assistance benefits, such as temporary food and housing assistance.
Between January 1 and March 31, 2017, the Division referred 535 cases to Florida’s 20 State Attorney’s Offices. Investigations saved $478,000 from being paid out to people found to be improperly using the programs, and another $4,016,051 was paid back in restitution by people caught misusing state program funds.
Additionally, the State provides a program that helps Florida families secure low-cost day care services if they are in need. As a result of the Division’s efforts, public assistance fraud investigators secured 66 new low-cost day care openings by removing ineligible families who fraudulently obtained access to these benefits.
DIFS’ Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations roots out possible signs of foul play on fire scenes. Oftentimes, acts of arson are committed in order to hide more significant crimes or in order to collect insurance money.
The Bureau responded to nearly 900 calls for service during the first quarter of 2017, and made 62 arrests. An additional 104 case presentations were made during that time period.
The Department’s efforts continue, and Floridians are asked to assist by reporting suspicious behavior to authorities. To report suspected insurance fraud, call 1-800-378-0445. To report a suspicious fire, call 1-877-662-7766. To report the misuse of public assistance, call 1-866-762-2237.
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Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services, serves as Florida’s State Fire Marshal, and is a member of the Florida Cabinet. 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.