Volume 2 Number 35
August 29, 2005

Consumer Services HelpLine Number 800-342-2762

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I'm deeply concerned for residents in South Florida and the Panhandle who just got hit by our sixth hurricane in just over a year. 

In South Florida, they are dealing with intense flooding from a storm that unexpectedly turned into a hurricane before coming on shore late Thursday night.  People in the Panhandle who are still recovering from hurricanes Ivan and Dennis got hit again by category 4 Hurricane Katrina today. 

But reports are that our neighbors in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana bore the brunt and we offer our prayers and support.  The Department of Financial Services and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are on standby to send any personnel and equipment they may need in their recovery efforts.

A big part of what makes Florida great is the people who live here. We will get through this storm because, ultimately, our people are stronger than any storm. 

The department is here to help.  If you need assistance filing a claim, call our storm hotline at 1-800-22-STORM. 

Night falls over the 1908 Lafayette County courthouse in Mayo, the county seat.  The two-story frame building across the street was an earlier courthouse. The county was formed in 1856 and named after the French marquis who assisted the colonies during the Revolutionary War.



Florida’s State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher said two dozen law enforcement officers from the State Fire Marshal’s Office are heading to Pensacola to help with recovery efforts in the wake of hurricane Katrina.  They will be joining officers from the Fish and Wildlife Commission, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Compliance Program. 

“It is heartbreaking to see the people of Northwest Florida suffering all over again,” said Gallagher.  “Helping the people of Pensacola and surrounding areas affected by Katrina is our first priority.  In addition, we will offer any addition resources available to help our neighbors along the Gulf Coast.  We know firsthand what the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are going through right now, and I know all Floridians join me in sending our thoughts and prayers out to them.”

As State Fire Marshal, Gallagher is responsible for mobilizing search and rescue efforts at the state Emergency Operations Center during an emergency.  In addition to personnel already heading to Pensacola, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is coordinating the mobilization of search and rescue teams from around Florida to the Panhandle area. CONTINUED







Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher is urging residents to identify emergency contacts on their cell phones.

As State Fire Marshal, Gallagher oversees search and rescue functions at Florida’s Emergency Operations Center.  He is recommending cell phone users put the acronym ICE, an abbreviation for "in case of emergency," before the names of people they want to be contacted on their behalf in an emergency.  The idea was developed by a British paramedic, and the idea is spreading across the nation.

“This simple step could help emergency workers ensure you get proper medical care and at the same time quickly connect you with your family in an emergency,” said Gallagher.  

An ICE entry could look like this: “ICE – Ann,” or “ICE – Mom.” Gallagher said you could also designate the order by entering ICE 1, ICE 2 and so on.

This could save paramedics, police and firefighters valuable time trying to figure out which name in a cell phone to call.  First responders have reported calling an elderly parent who was not well and should not have received such a call.

For hurricane preparation tips, visit the Department of Financial Services’ web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.  For assistance after the storm, call the department’s storm helpline at 1-800-22-STORM.




Gallagher: Insurance Fraud Investigators Caught Them on Tape Taking Payoffs

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced the arrests of five Tampa-area clinic owners, and the issuance of a warrant for another, for “selling” patients, most of whom were accident victims, to diagnostic facilities that then billed auto insurers thousands of dollars.

“This crime costs Florida’s hardworking families every time they pay their insurance premiums,” Gallagher said.  “It also jeopardizes the care the patients get when they are sold to the highest bidder.”

Today’s arrests were the result of a joint investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud; the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office, Economic Crimes Division; and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.  As CFO, Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services and the Division of Insurance Fraud.  In March, Gallagher went along as insurance fraud detectives arrested 13 individuals, including three Tampa clinic owners, on similar charges.  CONTINUED


An historical view of the Harris School in Key West.



The governor and members of the Cabinet unanimously approved the $5.4 million purchase of the Harris School from the Monroe County school board.  To keep the acquisition from being rejected, Tom Gallagher recommended the purchase be made with one condition – that $5 million of the purchase be used for affordable housing for teachers.  As many who live in the Keys know, affordable housing is at a premium.  In fact, median housing prices are more than twice the state average. 

As an area of critical state concern, issues important to the Keys such as housing, wastewater, habitat protection and even hurricane evacuation must be addressed.

The plan to use the Harris School as an artist colony is innovative.  Equally important is maximizing the resources of the Monroe County School District to provide affordable housing for teachers, who play a vital role in helping schools deliver a quality education to students.  





Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced the arrest of Allen E. Weintraub, 40, of Miami, for selling worthless hurricane insurance to at least 45 consumers.  Weintraub set up an unlicensed operation called Global Insurance Group and collected more than $100,000 for non-existent windstorm insurance.  Three weeks ago, Gallagher warned Floridians to beware that Global was selling bogus policies.

Weintraub was booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail early today on 45 counts of grand theft and 45 counts of transacting insurance activity without a certificate of authorization, in addition to one count of organizing a scheme to defraud.  Bond was set at $510,000.

“I applaud our fraud detectives for moving quickly to put this scam operator behind bars,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud.  “Selling bogus hurricane insurance to people in the middle of hurricane season is reprehensible.  I am relieved that we were able to shut this scheme down before more Floridians were defrauded and left vulnerable to storms.”  CONTINUED