Volume 4 Number 3
January 19, 2007


Two of the department's law enforcement officers, nominated by their respective agencies, were recognized on Wednesday by Attorney General Bill McCollum for outstanding work in 2006. CFO Alex Sink attended the ceremony and joined McCollum in greeting dozens of law enforcement officers who were on hand to support their nominees.

Lieutenant Michael Byrne, nominated by the Division of Insurance Fraud, and Detective John Esslinger, nominated by the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, were among 13 nominees for the Office of Attorney General's Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.

From left: Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations Chief Bruce Ashley, Deputy Chief Financial Officer and former Division of Insurance Fraud Director Eric Miller, CFO Alex Sink, and Division of State Fire Marshal Director Les M. Hallman congratulate Attorney General Officer of the Year nominees Detective John Esslinger, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, and Lt. Michael Byrne, Division of Insurance Fraud

Lt. Byrne is among the top 10 percent of insurance fraud detectives in Florida, and last year submitted 30 cases for prosecution leading to 16 arrests. Further, Lt. Byrne was the lead investigator in one of the largest staged accident rings in Pinellas County history involving more than 30 individuals involved in a $300,000 insurance fraud scheme. Breaking the case was attributed largely to Lieutenant Byrne’s expertise and investigative skills.

Detective Esslinger, who currently serves in Broward County, last year earned an arson fire arrest rate 21 percent higher than the national average. In one year alone he investigated 76 fires, 33 of which were determined to be the result of arson. Detective Esslinger was a key investigator in a Broward County arson case in which he determined that a fire at a commercial dry cleaning business was set by the owner and his son to collect on insurance claims.

The Attorney General's award was given to Detective Sergeant James R. Contento of the Tampa Police Department. Detective Contento was recognized for building successful community partnerships, including coordinating a team of patrol officers to work with mall managers and retailers in an operation credited with a more than 25 percent crime drop.