Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 1, Number 30, July 26, 2004                            

Since this great state was formed, 126 firefighters have lost their lives carrying out their duties.  Firefighters and their families know and accept this risk.  And we all are so grateful that there are individuals who answer this call to serve and protect.

As Florida’s State Fire Marshal, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with many in the fire and emergency services.  It has been an honor.

Every day throughout Florida and this great nation, firefighters demonstrate tremendous bravery in their dedication to preserving human life.

Unfortunately, sometimes they lose their own in doing so.

Having this wall located in the Capitol means countless Floridians and visitors will have the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the sacrifices these firefighters made.

It is unfortunate that any firefighter should lose their life in the line of duty, but what would be more unfortunate is if their lives and their sacrifices were ever forgotten.

                                                                    -- Tom Gallagher


STATE FIRE MARSHAL GALLAGHER UNVEILS DESIGN FOR FLORIDA FALLEN FIREFIGHTER WALL OF HONOR

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher unveiled the design for the Florida Fallen Firefighter Wall of Honor.  The wall will list the names of 126 firefighters who have died in the line of duty since Florida became a state. 

“Firefighters demonstrate tremendous bravery in their dedication to preserving human life,” Gallagher said.  “Unfortunately, sometimes they lose their own life in doing so.  But what would be more unfortunate is if their lives and their sacrifices were ever forgotten.”

Gallagher was joined at the unveiling of the design by Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Charles Bronson, who has experienced the loss of firefighters in the department’s Division of Forestry, and members of the Florida Joint Council of Fire and Emergency Services Organizations, which is funding the project.  

The Wall of Honor will include a handmade bronze statute of two firefighters and bronze plaques to display the names of fallen firefighters. The wall will be located on the plaza level of the Capitol, to the right of the entrance to the CFO’s office.  Bronze by Cooley will create the bust, and the name plaques will be produced by Metal Deco of Springfield, Ill.

“Having this wall located in the Capitol means countless Floridians and visitors will have the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the sacrifices these firefighters made,” said Commissioner Bronson.  “The design is dignified and makes a fitting tribute to their courage and dedication.”

Governor Jeb Bush approved of the design at a Cabinet meeting earlier this year.

A Fallen Firefighter Memorial is also located at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala, and will continue to be the site of an annual ceremony to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. 

To view the design plans for the Wall of Honor, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/SFM


STATE TO HOLD UNCLAIMED PROPERTY AUCTION IN MIAMI ON SATURDAY, JULY 31

The Department of Financial Services is auctioning more than $500,000 in unclaimed property on Saturday, July 31, in Miami.  Nearly 10,000 items will be put on the auction block, including antique jewelry, sports memorabilia and Mayan artifacts.  

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who will kick off the event as a guest auctioneer, said, “The auction is a great opportunity for the public to bid on unique and interesting items and to know that the proceeds are going directly to help Florida’s public schools.”

Cash turned over to the state and money collected from auctioning valuable items are deposited into the State School Trust Fund, managed by the Department of Education and benefiting Florida’s schools. Funds are always available for Floridians to claim at any time. 

Many schools have used those dollars for reading and mentoring initiatives as well as to buy needed supplies, Gallagher added.

A majority of cash and items held by the state come from abandoned bank accounts and safe deposit boxes in Florida banks and credit unions. In addition, cash may be available from utility deposits, insurance refunds and stock payments.  Florida law requires financial institutions to remit property that is unclaimed to the state after three years.

Property that is valuable, such as jewelry, coin collections or antiques, is typically held by the state for two to three years, after which it is auctioned.  Property is never sold below the estimated appraisal value, and the proceeds are held indefinitely until the owner is found and able to collect.  

According to Gallagher, the state has more than $1.1 billion in unclaimed property waiting to be returned to the rightful owners.  No fees are ever charged for this state service, he said. 

To find out if cash or property is being held by the state for you, or if you are an heir to unclaimed property, log on to www.fltreasurehunt.org and enter as much information as you can into our easy-to-use claim form.  Floridians may also call our toll-free number at 1-88-VALUABLE. 

The auction will be held at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza near the Miami International Airport starting at 9:00 a.m. Bidding requires a refundable deposit and valid photo identification. 

Visit www.fltreasurehunt.org for more information or to view an online catalogue of available items.


SPRING HILL RESIDENT CHARGED WITH WORKERS' COMP FRAUD

Investigators videotaped supposedly disabled worker on construction site

A former employee with a Spring Hill rehabilitation center was caught performing manual labor while collecting workers’ compensation benefits for an alleged injury sustained on the job in 2003.

“Individuals who fake injuries to collect fraudulent benefits drive up the costs of coverage for employers, negatively impacting our state’s economy” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services.  “We will continue to aggressively investigate fraud and abuse of our workers’ compensation system.”

Investigators with the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud say Jesus Fernandez, 44, of 7140 Sealawn Dr. in Spring Hill, collected thousands of dollars in fraudulent workers’ compensation benefits.  According to investigators, Fernandez reported an injury to his employer after hospital beds he was transporting fell on him.  Fernandez was treated by a physician, placed on restricted duty and began receiving workers’ compensation payments for injuries to his neck, back and right hip. 

In March and April 2004, the workers’ compensation carrier hired investigators to conduct video surveillance that later was turned over to state investigators.  The video recorded Fernandez climbing on ladders, lifting ladders, carrying tools to rooftops and working on air conditioning units.  As a result of Fernandez’s allegedly fraudulent claim, more than $18,000 in payments were made by the carrier.

Fernandez was arrested late Thursday and charged with one count of grand theft and one count of workers’ compensation fraud.  He was booked into the Hernando County Jail, with bond set at $4,000.  If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers’ compensation insurance.  Anyone with information about this case or another possible fraud scheme should call the department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.  A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to a conviction.


MAN CHARGED WITH FILING FALSE INSURANCE CLAIM AFTER HOME BURNS AS RESULT OF ARSON

A man accused of falsifying an insurance claim after a December fire damaged a Southwest Ranches home that he owns was arrested this morning by insurance fraud investigators with the Department of Financial Services on charges of insurance fraud, grand theft, and uttering a forged instrument.

John Carstea, 36, of 16592 NW 9th Court, Pembroke Pines, allegedly submitted to Poe Financial Services an altered contractor’s receipt for boarding up the damaged home.  Investigators said the cost had been changed from $3,200 to $7,008, and that Carstea provided a tape-recorded statement to the insurance company confirming the expense.

“Insurance fraud drives up the cost of coverage for all of us,” Gallagher said.  “I urge anyone with any information about this case to please come forward.”

Carstea filed the insurance claim following an early morning fire on Dec. 21, 2003, that destroyed a home he owns at 5301 SW 186th Ave.  The State Fire Marshal’s Office, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, determined the fire was a result of arson, and an investigation is continuing.  Fire investigators said the home was unoccupied. 

Carstea was booked into the Broward County Jail where he will remain pending posting of $3,000 bond.  If convicted on all counts, he faces a statutory sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Anyone with information about the alleged insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445.  Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to call 1-877-NOARSON. 

The Department of Financial Services, Fraud Division, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is a law enforcement branch of the Division Of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local fire and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of suspicious origin.

 

Florida Department of Financial Services
Consumer Services HelpLine
(800)342-2762.