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My Florida C F O
Weekly eNewsletter from Florida's Chief Financial Officer

Dear Fellow Floridian:

This week marks the beginning of Black History Month, a time we have set aside to celebrate African Americans in Florida and throughout our country who have broken barriers, advocated equality and positively influenced the course of history. Examples such as Floridians Mary McLeod Bethune, whose vision and wisdom created what would become Bethune-Cookman University; Ray Charles, one of our country’s most famous musicians; and current Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, our state’s first-ever African American Lieutenant Governor, serve as shining illustrations of those whose hard work and character have made the state of Florida a better place to live.Black History Month

By reflecting on the virtue and courage of such outstanding Floridians, we are offered practical guidance on how to prosper and grow as individuals, as Floridians and as Americans. Their hard work, courage and determination are examples for all of us to admire and emulate. It is important to appreciate the many contributions that African American Floridians have made to our collective society, economy and culture, and I encourage all Floridians to join me during Black History Month in recognizing the significant accomplishments of these trailblazers by participating in the many events scheduled throughout our state.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

Meaningful PIP Fraud Reform Needed

This week, CFO Atwater appeared on "The Bottom Line," the Florida Chamber's online newsletter with Executive Vice-President David Hart to discuss the need for PIP reform this legislative session. Watch the interview below.

News of Interest

Sun-Sentinel: Floridians' consumer confidence jumps in January

Tampa Bay Times: Florida DOE, Gov. Rick Scott release ranking of state's schools

Orlando Sentinel: Boat dealers encouraged by interest in annual Jacksonville show

Florida Trend: Florida small business is full speed ahead

Miami Herald: Armour Group builds bullet-proof business

Orlando Business Journal: Universal Orlando hiring hundreds for new parade

South Florida Business Journal: Miami International Airport reports record year

Tampa Tribune: USF patent would make cellphones an interactive crime-fighting tool

An Update from Florida's Bottom Line: Consumer Confidence Surges

Consumer confidence among Floridians surged in January, up seven points to 77, according to a University of Florida survey. Four of the five categories measured by the survey reveal increased optimism. To see the most up-to-date information on Florida’s financial health read Florida’s Bottom Line.

Arrest for Filing Fraudulent PIP Claims

Division of Insurance Fraud Badge Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced on Wednesday the arrest of a Miami clinic owner for submitting fraudulent Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims from his unlicensed clinic.

Juan M. Dieguez, who also used the false identity Jorge R. Gonzalez, is charged with operating a health care clinic without a license, grand theft and insurance fraud following an investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF). Dieguez was booked into the Miami Dade County Jail on Friday and is being held on $65,000 bond. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

“Insurance fraudsters have learned how to game Florida’s PIP system and every honest Floridian with a car in the driveway ends up paying,” Atwater said. “We must put policies in place to stop those who make a career out of stealing our fellow Floridians’ hard-earned dollars.”

To demonstrate the increase of insurance fraud in Florida, consider the fact that in 2008, a 40-year-old driver in Miami with an unblemished driving record was paying $582 in PIP premium, and in 2010, this same driver paid nearly $1,050 for the same coverage. This is an 80 percent increase.

This case is part of a continuing crackdown by CFO Atwater’s Division of Insurance Fraud and the National Insurance Crime Bureau in the fight against auto insurance fraud in Florida. Farmers Insurance, Kingsway Amigo, State Farm and United Auto provided assistance in this investigation.

Anyone with information regarding suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.