Volume 4, Number 24, June 15, 2007
I am pleased to announce that the 50,000
homeowners previously awaiting wind mitigation inspections through the My
Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program have all been served - a month earlier than
anticipated - and the program is now eagerly awaiting applications from more
27 ARRESTED IN MIAMI STAGED ACCIDENT RING
The investigation began after fraud detectives from the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), were interviewed on a Miami radio show and afterward a caller provided details regarding staged accidents. The caller helped fraud detectives infiltrate the staged accident ring between December 2006 and April 2007. Those arrested are charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and several are also charged with money laundering.
“We do not take insurance fraud lightly, especially when so many people are conspiring to rip off Floridians,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the department. “I commend all of the investigators for their hard work and thank the caller who provided the tip for having the courage to stand up for what is right.”
Those arrested include Martin Triana, 45, owner of MTG Diagnostic Center; Triana’s wife Gisela Casuso, 33, manager of MTG Diagnostics; and Jimmy Suros-Corzo, 35, owner, and Aramys Lopez, 32, manager, of T&A Diagnostic Center, who allegedly recruited participants for the accidents and filed fraudulent insurance claims; and Gerardo Melenez, 47, a paralegal who often passed himself off as attorney Victor Careaga and coached participants on how to lie to insurance companies. The suspects could face additional charges under a Florida law that provides a mandatory minimum two-year prison sentence for staging an auto accident. In addition to the arrests, search warrants were served at two clinics, an attorney’s office, and a home that served as the corporate address for two businesses.
DIF was assisted in the investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Secret Service and the North Miami Police Department. The insurance companies defrauded in this investigation were 21st Century, Esurance, Geico, Met Life, Response, State Farm, Unitrin, Victoria Fire & Casualty, and AIG as well as Avis, Dollar and Hertz rental companies. The insurance companies’ special investigations units (SIUs) were instrumental in the investigation, along with dedicated prosecutors Nina Vivenzio and Thomas Sadler, whose positions are provided through a partnership between DIF, the Florida Automobile Joint Underwriting Association and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office. Evangelina Brooks was DIF’s lead detective.
This case is part of a continuing crackdown by DIF, the insurance industry and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) to fight auto insurance fraud, which is estimated to cost the average Florida family as much as $240 a year.
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 or any suspected insurance fraud is asked to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
TASK FORCE ON CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE CLAIMS
In an ongoing effort to improve Citizens’ policyholder and applicant services, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is convening the fourth meeting of the legislatively-created Task Force on Citizens Property Insurance Claims Handling and Resolution. The task force will meet twice on Tuesday, June 19, 2007, from 2 – 4 p.m. and 6 – 8 p.m. at Nova Southeastern University, in the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center.
Consumers who have homeowner policies with Citizens or who have open claims from the 2004/2005 hurricane seasons are encouraged to attend the public hearings and provide public testimony. The Department of Financial Services will also have consumer assistance on site to help Floridians with questions regarding Citizens claims and policies.
The Citizens task force was created by House Bill 1A during the 2007 special session of the Florida Legislature. The task force is composed of: Chairman and Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Bob Milligan; Vice Chairman and Senator Mike Fasano; Representative Julio Robaina; Michael B. Twomey Sr., Attorney; Mike Lancashire, VP, The Main Street America Group; Heather Carruthers, Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe County; and Tim Loftin, VP of Claims at Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.
The task force is directed to develop recommendations for Citizens to complete claims remaining from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. The report is due to the Governor, Chief Financial Officer, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House by July 1, 2007. The task force is additionally charged with evaluating Citizens’ procedures on claims handling, claims resolution and customer service, with a final report and recommendations due July 1, 2008.
The fourth meeting of the Task Force on Citizens Property Insurance Claims Handling and Resolution will be as follows:
DATE: Tuesday, June 19, 2007
TIME: 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
LOCATION: Nova Southeastern University
Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center
3100 Ray Ferrero Jr. Blvd.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314
CFO Sink has also created a Web site dedicated to the task force, its duties, appointments, and upcoming meetings. Floridians who would like to learn more about the task force are encouraged to visit the Web site at http://www.taskforceoncitizensclaimshandling.org.
MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME ‘BLOWING’
THROUGH WIND INSPECTIONS
FLORIDA CLIMATE CHANGE CONVERSATIONS CONTINUE
Serving as the State Treasurer, Florida Chief Financial
Officer Alex Sink has dedicated her first six months in office to
understanding the issues that affect the future of Florida’s economy.
On November 14, the conversations will convene with experts continuing to discuss solutions and action for Florida's sustained financial health.
Another way CFO Sink is working to increase awareness about the issue is through www.floridaclimatechange.com, a website created for Floridians seeking information about climate change, links to other climate change organizations, and most importantly information about the possible financial impact of climate change on Florida’s economy.
Consumer eViews www.MyFloridaCFO.com/PressOffice/Newsletter/