Volume 4 Number 6
February 9, 2007


State Fire Marshal Detective John Esslinger received the second-highest number of votes at an annual awards ceremony held last week by the State Law Enforcement Chief Association (SLECA).  Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink also attended and spoke at the ceremony. 

Esslinger, a detective in the State Fire Marshal Office’s Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, was among 14 state law enforcement officers submitted for the award by the various state law enforcement agencies.  Esslinger also was a nominee for the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, which Attorney General Bill McCollum announced in January.

Esslinger currently serves in Broward County.  Last year, he 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 property loss associated with the arson of the dry cleaning business and extended damage to other businesses in the structure exceeded $700,000.

Detective Neil McDonald, who serves in the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud, was also a nominee for SLECA Officer of the Year.  Detective McDonald is a lead detective in the Orlando field office and investigates complex cases involving various insurance fraud schemes.  Detective McDonald recently arrested an insurance agent who swindled more than $2.6 million from Florida citizens by selling them bogus annuities.  Detective McDonald executed a search warrant that uncovered valuable evidence during the investigation and, in August of 2006, the agent was sentenced to 14 years in state prison and ordered to pay restitution to the victims.