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Volume 4, No. 2 - February 2015

News You Can Use

- Updating you on what's going on

Multi-Agency Unlicensed Contractor Sting in Manatee County Nets 11 Arrests

The Florida Department of Financial Services announced the recent arrest of 11 individuals in Manatee County for unlicensed contracting and engaging in construction work without workers’ compensation insurance. The Division of Insurance Fraud, in partnership with the Department of Business & Professional Regulation, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Holmes Police Department and Manatee County Code Enforcement executed the sting over a three-day period, calling for contractors to perform services at an uninhabited home in Manatee County.
Click here to read the press release >>

The Florida Department of Financial Services Announces Final Resolution in $35 Million Central Florida Mortgage Fraud Case

A joint investigation conducted in partnership by the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that was later prosecuted by the United State Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, culminated this week with final restitution ordered of more than $12 million and sentences for James Sotolongo, Christopher Mencis, and Stephanie Musselwhite for their roles in a mortgage fraud scheme that defrauded lenders out of more $35 million.
Click here to read the press release >>

Florida Department of Financial Services Prepared to Assist Consumers Affected by Anthem Data Breach

In response to a cyber security breach of the national health insurance company Anthem Inc., the Florida Department of Financial Services has taken proactive steps to provide consumer information regarding potential scams that may arise as a result of the data breach. The Department’s Consumer Helpline, which provides consumer information on insurance-related matters, has taken measures to accommodate anticipated higher call volumes and has added information on the breach to its Consumer Alerts web page.
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Department of Financial Services Announces Arrest of Orange Park Bail Bondsman

The Florida Division of Insurance Fraud announced the arrest of an Orange Park bail bondsman after an agency investigation revealed that David Gartenbush, Jr. allegedly engaged in illegal activity by acting as a bail bondsman without an active license. In addition to being charged with unlicensed activity, charges of false imprisonment and aggravated assault have also been filed against him. Two others were charged with assisting him and the agency's Division of Agent & Agency Services will be suspending their professional licenses.
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The Department of Financial Services Announces License Revocation and $140,000 Fine for Fort Myers Insurance Agent's Misrepresentations to Florida Seniors

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the revocation of Fort Myers insurance agent Gregory Sample’s license after an investigation revealed that Sample engaged in unethical and illegal business practices that ultimately duped several of his clients, most of whom are seniors, to lose money from their annuity contracts. In addition to having his license revoked, the action will render Sample permanently barred from both direct and indirect participation of any kind in the insurance industry and ordered to pay a $140,000 fine. The Division of Administrative Hearings determined that he made willful misrepresentations and is not trustworthy. Sample has appealed the ruling.
Click here to read the press release >>

Unfair Insurance Trade Practices - Sliding Travel Insurance

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (“Office”) recently issued an informational memorandum reminding insurers of the Florida Unfair Insurance Trade Practices Act ("Act") and its requirement that insurers refrain from engaging in practices that constitute unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices, including the act of "sliding."

The Office has been made aware that some insurers, offering travel insurance through retail travel agencies in conjunction with travel purchases made via websites, require consumers to opt out of purchasing ancillary travel insurance by deselecting a radio button or check box. If a consumer does not deselect the insurance offering on the website, the cost of the coverage is automatically added to the consumer’s total purchase.

"Sliding" is defined in the Act as "charging an applicant for a specific coverage or product, in addition to the cost of the insurance coverage applied for, without the informed consent of the applicant." The practice of automatically charging consumers for ancillary travel insurance unless consumers take action to decline coverage does not comply with the requirement of "informed consent." Consumers must be given the opportunity to affirmatively accept travel insurance or any other insurance coverage.

Insurers are liable for the actions of agents and others selling their products that engage in sliding, or otherwise fail to comply with the Unfair Insurance Trade Practices Act.
Click here to read the informational memorandum >>

Make Sure You Don't Miss Important Information From Us

We highly recommend that licensees routinely check their MyProfile account(s) for messages from the Department. We send an email notification at the same time to remind you to check your MyProfile account but on rare occasions you may not receive that email. For that reason, we suggest you add our domain to your email software's Trusted or Safe Senders List to ensure you are able to receive email notifications from us. Licensees who have a valid email address on file with the Department, as required by law, are sent important email notifications when something that affects their application, license, continuing education, or appointment(s) occurs. Additionally, we will keep you informed with warnings regarding new schemes and scams being marketed to licensees. You can update your contact information through your MyProfile account. We want to keep you informed in a timely manner of pertinent information. You are still required to abide by the Florida Insurance Code regardless of whether you read the information we provide or attempt to provide.