Volume 3 Number 49
December 4, 2006

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GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES THREE FRAUD FIGHTER REWARDS
Department of Financial Services program has paid $94,000 since 2001

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced that $2,500 in Fraud Fighter rewards have been paid recently to three individuals who provided key information that led to the arrests of four individuals for insurance fraud totaling more than $35,000.

The Department of Financial Services has awarded $94,000 as part of its Fraud Fighters Reward Program, which rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.

“Insurance fraud costs us all, but working together we can do something about it,” said Gallagher, who oversees the department. “These tips made a big difference in our ability to prosecute these crimes, and we thank these individuals for coming forward to help us in the fight against crime.”

A $1,000 reward was paid to a man who provided information that led to the arrest and conviction of a Cocoa Beach man who fraudulently reported the theft of two Mercury 200 HP outboard motors. John Turk reported the motors stolen in June 2000, and State Farm Insurance paid Turk more than $19,000 to resolve the claim.

A man who later notified State Farm that the motors had suffered mechanical failures prior to the claim being filed, said he saw Turk and two other men use a forklift to remove the motors from Turk’s boat and put them in a trailer the day before Turk claimed the motors had been stolen.

Turk was convicted of filing a false and fraudulent insurance claim and grand theft and was sentenced to serve 50 hours of community service and pay $50 a month for six months of county supervision, $260 to the county victim witness program, $700 in investigative costs to the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud and full restitution to State Farm.

Another $1,000 reward was paid to an Orlando woman who provided information that led to the conviction of a brother and sister for theft and a scheme to defraud.

Mary Chen Kuo and her brother George Chen, owner of Formosa Gardens Homes Inc., International American Resorts and Comfort Inn Suites Maingate in Kissimmee, were convicted of claiming Mary Kuo as a full-time employee of the businesses so that she could get health benefits. When asked for proof of employment, Chen provided copies of three annual profit share checks that had been paid to his sister. As a result of the fraud, detectives said, United Health Care and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida paid more than $8,500 for health care benefits that Mary Kuo was not entitled to receive.

Kuo and her brother entered pleas of no contest and were placed in the Pre-Trial Diversion Program. Both were ordered to pay restitution and investigative costs. Adjudication was withheld.

In a third recent case, a Hudson man was awarded $500 for helping to thwart another man’s scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $9,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.

Matthew J. Womack reported in April 2003 that he suffered a work-related injury to his lower back while he was employed with Stock Building Supply in Hudson. As a result of his claim, Sedgwick Claims Management Services paid Womack more than $4,800 in indemnity benefits and more than $4,200 in medical benefits. But, investigators said, Womack failed to disclose that he had been in a vehicle accident the day before his alleged work-related accident.

In a deposition, Womack said the injury occurred when he attempted to grab a sliding truss, felt a sharp pain in his back and fell to the ground where he lay for 30-45 minutes. Womack named several co-workers as witnesses. But a co-worker whom Womack named as a witness said he never saw an accident, and further investigation determined the accident did not occur as Womack claimed.

Womack was adjudicated guilty of workers’ compensation claim fraud and was placed on five years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution of $9,123.34 and court costs of $255.

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 a possible insurance fraud scheme is urged to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. Information may be provided anonymously.