Volume 3 Number 50
December 11, 2006

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GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES ARREST OF PALM BEACH MAN FOR INSURANCE FRAUD

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced the arrest today of the owner and operator of Ron Mor Drywall, Inc. on a charge of workers’ compensation premium fraud for allegedly underreporting payroll to his workers’ compensation carrier to avoid more than $67,000 in premiums.

Ronald Salvatore Mauro, 64, of South Palm Beach, was arrested this morning following an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.  Mauro was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail and faces up to 15 years in prison, in addition to fines and restitution, if convicted.

“Those who avoid paying appropriate premiums create an uneven playing field for other employers and put their employees at risk,” said Gallagher, who oversees the department.  “We are determined to ensure that employers comply with the law and that appropriate action is taken against those who do not.”

Legislative reforms and aggressive investigative and compliance efforts have saved employers more than $1 billion in the past three years, as rates have dropped more than 40 percent since 2003.

The investigation, based on information provided by Zurich North America Insurance, the company’s general liability carrier, and Comprehensive Employers Insurance, (First Commercial Insurance), the company’s workers’ compensation carrier, that Ron Mor Drywall failed to report more than $374,000 in payroll to Comprehensive Employers Insurance during the 2002 policy period.  Investigators said had Mauro correctly reported his payroll, the company would have been assessed $67,501 as premium owed for workers compensation coverage for the 2002 audit period.

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 is asked to call the department's Fraud Busters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.





 


STATE FIRE MARSHAL ARSON DETECTIVE NAMED 2006 INVESTIGATOR OF THE YEAR BY FLORIDA ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON ARSON PREVENTION

The Florida Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention (FACAP) has named an arson investigator in the State Fire Marshal’s Office as the organization’s Investigator of the Year.

Detective Chris Scovotto has served with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, since 1999, and currently serves in the bureau’s North Region where he is credited with building strong working relationships between law enforcement and the fire service.

In the past 12 months, Detective Scovotto has been the primary investigator in 60 cases.  Fifteen of the fires investigated were determined to have been incendiary, and eight of the cases involved the use or threatened use of a destructive device. Detective Scovotto made arrests in 15 of these 23 cases, resulting in a clearance rate of 65 percent.

Detective Scovotto is recognized for providing prosecutors with thorough arrest information, and his investigative practices have resulted in formal charges being filed in virtually all of his arrest cases.


GALLAGHER PROVIDES FLORIDIANS WITH HOLIDAY FIRE SAFETY TIPS

As Floridians prepare for chilly weather and the 2006 holiday season by turning up their heaters and setting out candles and lights, State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher is urging residents to keep safety in mind.

According to the National Fire Protection Association,
73 percent of home-heating deaths are attributed to space heaters.  The association also reports that real or artificial Christmas trees were the first item in the home to ignite in an estimated average of 310 reported U.S. home structure fires per year in 1999-2002.  These fires caused an average of 14 civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage per year. 
               
“This time of year we see a large number of preventable fires that occur in Florida’s homes,” Gallagher said.  “I urge all Floridians to be cautious, have working smoke alarms and fire escape plans.” 
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Gallagher encourages all Floridians to follow these simple fire safety tips:

  • Make sure you have smoke detectors and make sure they work.
  • Create a fire escape plan for your family and practice carrying out the plan.
  • Use flashlights instead of candles if electrical power is knocked out.
  • Plug electric space heaters directly into wall outlets. Do not use extension cords. 
  • Keep space heaters and other heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture, walls and drapes and never use a space heater in a bedroom.
  • Before using a fireplace, make sure the chimney flue is open so carbon monoxide gas can escape. 
  • If your natural gas is shut off or the pilot light needs to be re-lit, contact your local gas company. Do not attempt to turn the gas on or light the pilot on your own.
  • Water Christmas trees daily.
  • Don’t let tree lights touch needles or curtains. 
  • Turn out lights and snuff candles before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Keep candles out of reach of children and pets and use sturdy candleholders.
  • Have an operable fire extinguisher readily available.

“Education and awareness are critical to help prevent home fires,” Gallagher said.  “These tips can help save lives.” 

For more fire safety tips, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com or www.nfpa.org.