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

Dear Fellow Floridian:

As the ball dropped and Americans rang in the New Year with much joy and anticipation, at the 11th hour the President and Congress passed inadequate legislation to soften the impact of going over the fiscal cliff. While the politicians in Washington subsequently took a day off to celebrate what they viewed as a legislative victory, this was certainly not a win for the American people, who returned to work with a higher payroll tax.

Although lower income tax rates were preserved for many Americans, ultimately the President and Congress failed to enact real tax and spending reform that is desperately needed to get our nation back on track for the long term. Here’s one example: the state sales tax deduction. Americans who pay state income taxes have a permanent deduction, but the deduction for all states that do not have an income tax must be renewed every few years, impacting approximately 20 percent of Florida taxpayers. This deduction was renewed at the last minute as a part of the fiscal cliff negotiations, but despite bipartisan support, the sales tax deduction is still only temporary.

We cannot continue this kind of haphazard governance that makes every tax season a crisis and contributes to an environment of uncertainty weighing down on an already fragile economy.

It is my mission to do everything possible to make this deduction permanent, and I hope you will join me in this effort so that Floridians get the tax relief they deserve.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

News of Interest

Washington Post ‘Fiscal cliff’ deal does little to tame threats from debt ceiling, high unemployment rates

Bloomberg: Fiscal Cliff Averted, but Here's What Comes Next

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: A very good year for South Florida housing

Orlando Business Journal: Florida hitting population milestone in January

South Florida Business Journal: Fed: Florida economic growth projection highest in 7 years

Seventeen Arrests in Accident Clinic Sting

CFO Atwater announced the arrest of Valerie Marshal, 24, a licensed massage therapist and owner of Indian Rehabilitation Center, Inc. (IRCI), and 16 others for insurance fraud for alleged involvement in a fraudulent accident clinic ring in Jacksonville.DFS Division of Insurance Fraud

“These large-scale accident clinics are at the root of the PIP fraud problem in Florida,” CFO Atwater said. “We must stay one step ahead of the ring leaders who are orchestrating these schemes. We will continue to take out these PIP fraud rings so that Florida drivers are protected and safe on the roads.”

An investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud alleges that in September 2011, Marshal opened IRCI and conspired with several individuals to stage auto accidents and submit fraudulent therapy reports for patients who never received treatment from her clinic. These reports were used to file fraudulent Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims with several insurance companies.

Also arrested in the sting were various clinic employees, recruiters, and staged accident participants; Yokayra Ramos, Roscoe Sawyer, Jr., Edgard Fernandez-Romans, David Arteaga Torres, Kenneth Carrerro, Jonathan Robinson, Calvin Grier, Tara Buck, Niko Semedo, Tawaub Zahir, Samantha Daniels, Kathy Adams, Yilan Espinosa, Connor Certo and Lester Lopez.

At least 19 claims were reported to the National Insurance Crime Bureau  from 11 insurance carriers. IRCI had approximately 80 patients during this time and over $228,000 was paid out to IRCI from the insurance providers. Additional arrests are expected.

Marshal, as well as the 16 other individuals arrested in connection with the fraud ring, were booked into the Duval County Jail. If convicted, she faces up to 30 years in prison. The Office of Duval State Attorney Angela Cory will be prosecuting the charges in this case.

Anyone with information of 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 almost $275,000 to more than 40 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.