CFO Jimmy Patronis Announces Arrest of Licensed Orlando Insurance Agent in $16,763 Fraud Scheme
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Sheila De Lima Torres Tecchio, a licensed insurance agent with Enterprise Insurance Agency, Inc., after she allegedly prepared and submitted fraudulent insurance applications to multiple insurance carriers in an effort to defraud Floridians out of $16,763.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime and it drives up rates for honest, hardworking consumers. We hold Florida's licensed insurance agents to the highest standard of honesty and professionalism and it's despicable when this trust is broken just to make a quick buck. Let me be clear: If you commit insurance fraud in Florida, you will be caught and we will hold you accountable."
CFO Patronis' fraud detectives discovered that Tecchio was writing and submitting fraudulent insurance applications to multiple insurance companies. Tecchio misclassified the vehicles as either personal use or limited business purpose vehicles without the owner's knowledge. Tecchio then submitted the fraudulent applications resulting in her receiving commissions of approximately $16,763 for 39 vehicles between March 12, 2017, and March 30, 2018. Because of these actions multiple consumers were going without insurance coverage.
Tecchio surrendered to the Orange County Jail and was arrested on March 6. Tecchio faces counts of scheme to defraud, false and fraudulent motor vehicle insurance application and grand theft. If convicted, Tecchio could face up to 70 years in prison.
Florida Insurance Commissioner Debunks Top AOB Myths
In his continued efforts to ensure Floridians understand the impacts of assignment of benefits (AOB) abuse, Commissioner David Altmaier has debunked the top five myths and most common AOB-related misunderstandings.
An AOB allows a restoration vendor to "stand in the shoes" of a consumer who has experienced home damage by granting consumers the right to sign over their insurance benefits to the vendor, who files claims for work performed. The AOB also allows the vendor to seek direct payment from the insurance company and if litigation is pursued, vendors can also demand payment of attorney’s fees.
Commissioner Altmaier stated: "When used appropriately, an AOB is a great tool for consumers and should remain accessible to all policyholders. However, it is imperative homeowners review and understand the documents they are asked to sign following a loss or damage to their property as AOB abuse continues to negatively impact consumers, their insurance rates, and markets across Florida. Across the state, AOB agreements are being used by bad actors as a vehicle to exploit Florida's unique attorney fees statute to fill their coffers with additional profits at the expense of every homeowner in our state. Absent a legislative solution, AOB abuse will severely hamper Floridians' ability to recover from future storms."
For more information about this issue, visit the Office of Insurance Regulation’s (OIR) “Assignment of Benefits Resources” webpage.
CFO Jimmy Patronis Spearheading Fraud Free Florida Initiative
Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis launched Fraud Free Florida, a new initiative aimed at better coordinating collective investigative efforts to protect Florida’s large population, especially seniors, from scam artists. The initiative will bring together statewide law enforcement officials, local state attorneys, private sector stakeholders, and members of CFO Patronis’ fraud investigative teams. Its goal will be to help Florida stay ahead of new scams and take on rampant fraud already taking place including: fraud at unscrupulous opioid treatment centers, public assistance fraud, identity theft, and cybersecurity issues.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Florida currently ranks first in fraud and second in identity theft nationwide. In 2017, identity theft cost Americans nearly $905 million. This is unacceptable, and we must use innovative ways to stay two steps ahead of criminals who want to take your identity, steal money from families who need it, and prey on vulnerable Floridians. We see it after every hurricane, millions of dollars are stolen as crooks prey on Florida families in their time of need to make a quick buck.
"I am proud to announce this initiative today and look forward to working with an all-star team of top law enforcement officials and stakeholders from across our state. I look forward to creating a lasting impact as we go after these criminals and expose scam artists who aim to cheat the system and target hardworking Floridians."
The new Fraud Free Florida initiative joins the ranks of CFO Patronis' already robust Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS), which includes the Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team (DFAST) aimed at curbing hurricane-related insurance fraud, as well as his Division of Public Assistance Fraud. CFO Patronis' DIFS is one of the top law enforcement agencies in the state dedicated to rooting out fraud and investigating financial crimes. Fraud Free Florida will help agencies better collaborate on fraud cases and identify law changes needed to make Florida the toughest state in the nation on fraud.
You can join the fight and even report fraud and scams at FraudFreeFlorida.com.
Statewide Search for $42 Million Fraud
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is asking for the public’s help in locating alleged scam artists still at large after a recent $42.7 million insurance fraud bust announced in Ft. Myers. Jorge Valido, a former Miami doctor and ring leader in the fraud scheme is still at large, along with his sister Minerva Valido, an alleged associate in the scheme.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "We need your help—these criminals are on the run and we need you to help apprehend them. Call my detectives with tips so we can get them off of the streets and put them in jail where they belong."
Anyone with any information is encouraged to call the Bureau of Insurance Fraud, Fort Myers field office at (239) 278-7527 or the Fraud Hotline at 800-378-0445.
Expanded image of Jorge Valido and Minerva Valido.
CFO Jimmy Patronis Announces 10 Arrests in $42.7 Million Insurance Fraud Bust
At a press conference in Ft. Myers, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrests of 10 individuals in an alleged $42.7 million insurance fraud ring. Jorge Valido, a former Miami doctor and primary figure in the fraud scheme is still at large. Valido, who was previously indicted for healthcare fraud, and his associates are alleged to have stolen doctors' identities, illegally obtained insurance information and billed $42,742,852 in fraudulent medical services.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime and fraud like this drives up insurance costs for every Floridian. Stolen identities, fake clinics, and stealing $42 million–this was an elaborate fraud scheme and ultimately consumers are on the losing end. Let me be clear: If you commit insurance fraud in Florida, my office will catch you and you will go to jail.”
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “This organized crime scheme cost health insurance companies millions and stretched from Hillsborough to Miami Dade County. Insurance fraud is a serious crime that forces higher premiums on all rate payers, and as Attorney General, I will continue to work with our great law enforcement partners to investigate and bring to justice any criminal organization exploiting Florida’s insurance market.”
An investigation by CFO Patronis’ fraud detectives revealed that 14 individuals submitted 23,708 claims to insurance companies, containing over 20 different physicians' stolen identities for fraudulent services from 2015 to 2018. Claims were listed as originating from 15 “phantom clinics” with addresses in the Fort Myers, Tampa, Lake Worth, Boca Raton and Miami. These fake clinics had physical addresses to function solely as drop boxes for insurance payments. In total, $42,742,852 in fraudulent claims were submitted to insurance companies for payment. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and Attorney General Moody’s Office of the Statewide Prosecutor assisted in this investigation.
Maylene Cruz, Xiomara Baullosa, Jorge Valido Leyva, Anais Hernandez Jorge, Nivardo R. Parra, Nestor Damian Rodriguez, Nestor Rodriguez, Luis Eslen Machado, Sandra Efigenia Nadal Hidalgo, and Enrique Galera-Risco were arrested and/or charged on February 6. Jorge Arnaldo Valido, Arnaldo Valido, Minerva E. Valido and Gonzalo Rodriguez are all still at large. All parties face charges of scheme to defraud, money laundering, insurance fraud, criminal use of I.D., and RICO.
Orange County Cop Arrested for Insurance Fraud
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Wadih Ojeil, a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff's Office, after he allegedly filed a false and fraudulent automobile insurance claim for $2,230 with the GEICO insurance company.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Not only is filing false insurance claims illegal, but it drives up insurance rates for hardworking Floridians. This deputy swore to uphold and protect the law, but instead he committed fraud for personal gain. No matter who you are, my fraud detectives will find you and you will be held accountable."
CFO Patronis' fraud investigators revealed that on July 6, 2018, Ojeil struck a deer with his 2012 Ford Mustang damaging his personal vehicle. After the incident, Ojeil contacted his insurance company to add comprehensive coverage to his existing automotive policy. He did not report any existing damage when he added the comprehensive coverage and specifically asked GEICO if the added insurance covered deer collision. The new coverage did not go into effect until July 9, three days after the incident.
Once the coverage went into effect, Ojeil contacted his insurance company to file a claim on July 10, claiming he hit a deer causing damage to his vehicle. During a recorded interview with CFO Patronis' fraud detectives, Ojeil admitted he filed a fraudulent insurance claim and that he added comprehensive coverage to his policy, knowing the vehicle had already been damaged.
Ojeil was arrested on February 15, 2019, and booked into the Orange County Jail. Ojeil was charged with filing a false and fraudulent insurance claim. If convicted, Ojeil faces up to 5 years in prison.
Scammers Arrested in $2.8 Million Dental Insurance Fraud Scheme
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Renate Manns, owner of International Dental Group, Inc., along with five associates in an alleged $2.8 million insurance fraud scheme based in Miami-Dade County.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Let me be clear: If you commit fraud in Florida, you will be caught and you will be thrown in jail. I am continuing my fight against fraud to protect Floridians from skyrocketing insurance premiums."
CFO Patronis' fraud Investigators discovered Manns originally employed six licensed dentists at her practice. Once the dentists left the practice, Manns allegedly used their names and license information to bill insurance companies for fraudulent dental treatments between 2014 and 2017. One license used in the scheme belonged to a dentist who passed away in November 2013.
Manns was arrested on January 29, along with four of her associates: Raquel Soca, Blanca Nieves Bermudez, Carmen Elena Perez, and her husband Danilo Alain Perez, for their involvement in the fraud scheme. On January 31, the fifth associate Macia Rocio turned herself over to law enforcement for her involvement. All participants face multiple charges including identity theft, organized fraud, insurance fraud, and grand theft.
CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis Addresses Senate Banking and Insurance Committee
Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis spoke to the Florida Senate Banking and Insurance Committee to address Assignment of Benefits abuse. Watch the committee meeting as well as CFO Patronis' remarks (31:09) here on The Florida Channel.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Assignment of Benefits is a financial crisis in Florida and today I encouraged lawmakers to bring everyone to the table-including insurers, attorneys, contractors, and state leaders-to find the best solutions to addressing this mounting problem. Abuse of AOB is a deceptive practice and it’s important that we do everything to protect and empower Floridians against the bad actors who prey on vulnerable situations."
CFO Jimmy Patronis’ Insurance Fraud Detectives to Investigate Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad
In light of the recent arrest of Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad on charges of practicing medicine without a license, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced he has directed his fraud detectives to investigate any alleged insurance fraud relating to Massad.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "As a result of the recent findings surrounding Mayor Massad's arrest, I have directed my office to investigate whether or not he fraudulently profited from insurance policies while practicing medicine without a license. As this case remains ongoing, we ask members of the community to come forward with any information they may have surrounding this case."
Massad, 68, was apprehended as the Pasco County Sheriff's deputies were serving a search warrant at his Port Richey home. He allegedly shot multiple rounds at deputies before being taken into custody. No injuries were reported.
Members of the community who believe they have information surrounding potential insurance fraud are encouraged to contact the CFO's Fraud Tip Hotline by calling 1-800-378-0445. Callers can choose to remain anonymous and they may be eligible for a cash reward if the information they provide leads to a successful prosecution.
CFO Jimmy Patronis Announces Arrest of Miami-Dade Clinic Owners for Stealing Over $45,000 in Staged Accident Scheme
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrests of Pedro Sanchez, Jorge Enrique Martinez, Ivelis Garcia, Yanisbel Rodriguez Ocana and Victor Manuel Meneses Salina after their alleged involvement in orchestrating and executing a car accident scheme to exploit personal injury protection (PIP) benefits by filing fraudulent insurance claims.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Committing fraud for personal gain is appalling and raises insurance premiums for hardworking Floridians. My office will continue to hold scam artists accountable and send them to jail."
On May 19, 2017, CFO Patronis' Bureau of Insurance Fraud Investigators discovered that clinic owners Pedro Sanchez, of Sanchez Therapy Center, and Jorge Enrique Martinez, of Hialeah Quality Diagnostics, offered to pay participants, Yanisbel Rodriguez Ocana and Victor Manuel Meneses Salina for their involvement in a car crash as a part of a PIP fraud scheme. Once the staged accident occurred, the police were called to the scene and a crash report was generated.
Days after the staged accident occurred, the participants went to Sanchez and Martinez clinics acting as injured accident victims to receive treatment. Garcia, office manager of Quality Diagnostics, coached the participants on what to say to the insurance company regarding any therapy services. Garcia also provided the participants with blank therapy treatment forms to sign when no therapy services were ever provided by the clinics. Both clinics submitted fraudulent billing on behalf of the participants to United Auto Insurance Company and GEICO Insurance Company totaling $85,631 of which $45,145 was paid by the insurance companies.
Sanchez, Ocana and Salina were arrested on January 11, and Martinez and Garcia surrendered to law enforcement at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on January 15. All parties face charges of staged accident, insurance fraud, false claims, grand theft, organized scheme to defraud and patient brokering. If convicted, they face up to 15 years in prison.
Hurricane Irma Insurance Scammer Arrested for Stealing $14,000 from Homeowners
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Mary Bruce for unlicensed public adjusting and filing false and fraudulent liens on individuals' homes following Hurricane Irma. In total, Bruce stole $14,000 from homeowners.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "After a hurricane, Florida families are incredibly vulnerable and my fraud teams ensure that scammers who take advantage are found and thrown in jail. If you need repairs to your home and an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Report these incidents so we can get these criminals off the streets and deter others from committing these crimes."
Following Hurricane Irma in September 2017, CFO Patronis' investigators discovered that Bruce approached roofing companies and homeowners in Central Florida and falsely identified herself as a “claims manager.” Bruce told homeowners she could increase prior hurricane insurance claim settlements up to $30,000, but would require homeowners to sign a Power of Attorney document in order to do so.
Once signed, Bruce would submit an adjusted claim to the insurance company, doubling the original cost estimates submitted previously. If the insurance company refused to pay the increased adjusted amount, Bruce would then place a lien on the homeowner’s property.
Bruce was arrested and booked into the Volusia County Jail on charges of unlicensed public adjuster and filing of false and fraudulent lien. If convicted, Bruce faces up to 10 years in prison.
Hurricane Irma Scam Artist Arrested AGAIN in $68,000 Fraud Bust
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Mary Bruce for alleged unlicensed practice of public adjusting and grand theft related to Hurricane Irma. Bruce attempted to steal more than $68,000 in fraudulent claims. This is Bruce's second arrest for insurance fraud this year. She bonded out of jail in January and was arrested again on separate charges.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "It never ceases to amaze me the lengths these scam artists will go to steal your hard-earned money. My detectives caught this criminal once, and they have arrested her again. I promise you this: If you commit insurance fraud, we will find you, and you will go to jail."
Following Hurricane Irma in September 2017, CFO Patronis’ investigators discovered that Bruce approached homeowners whose home sustained roof and interior damages from the storm. Bruce told the homeowners that she was an “independent claims adjuster” that could negotiate settlements with insurance companies. Bruce required the homeowners to pay $3,500 and to sign a Power of Attorney. However, Bruce is not a licensed attorney, public adjuster, nor a general contractor.
Bruce then submitted fraudulent cost estimates for roofing work to the insurance company. In total, she submitted $68,000 in fraudulent insurance claims to the homeowner's insurance company.
Bruce was arrested and booked into the Brevard County Jail and charged for rendering services as an unlicensed public adjuster, as well as for grand theft. If convicted, Bruce faces up to 10 years in prison.