FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY
Volume 5, Number 2, January 11, 2008
GETTING READY TO FILE TAXES, REMEMBER EITC
It’s that time of year again. Floridians are awaiting the arrival
of their W-2s with a mixture
anticipation about filing their annual tax returns.
But did you know that you might be one of thousands of Floridians
who are eligible for a tax credit that is often missed? The Earned
Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a special federal tax credit available
to lower-income working individuals and families, many of whom
aren’t aware of its existence.
Every year, millions of dollars in tax relief are forfeited
because eligible Americans fail to claim their share of the EITC.
This is money that could be used to pay down debt, make a down
payment on a home, open a college fund or help you prepare for
To find out if you or someone you know may qualify,
click here. Help
spread the word, and you might help someone have a great start in
the new year.
CFO SINK ADDRESSES BUSINESS
Speaking to the business editors of several state newspapers on Thursday,
Florida CFO Alex Sink thanked them for helping readers understand important
issues including the effects of personal injury protection (PIP) reform and
efforts to educate Floridians about windstorm mitigation through the My Safe
Florida Home program.
Sink spoke during a two-day Business Editors Summit held by the Florida
Press Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Hosted by the
Tallahassee Democrat, the event was also sponsored by the Greater Tallahassee
Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Sink said economic challenges this year will demand Floridians’ continued
attention, including the $28 billion in risk exposure Floridians face
through the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. If a big storm hits, she
said, Floridians could be hit with $1.8 billion in assessments each year for
30 years. That is why she will pursue
legislation this year to create more flexibility in the fund and
allow the Florida Cabinet, which meets every two weeks, to set reinsurance prices
and levels in an effort to better control the risk.
She also addressed recent reports about Florida’s economy, saying
there is plenty to be optimistic about in our state. Sink said
that Florida has reinvented itself every decade and the current
challenges provide a terrific opportunity to make our state more
attractive to businesses and entrepreneurs.
FLORIDA WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT
A Photographic Documentary by Scherley Busch
The exhibit affords viewers an opportunity to experience the rich
history of our state through Ms. Busch's artistic and impressive
collection of many of Florida's remarkable women, pioneers and leaders
in their chosen fields. Select color, environmental portraits and
biographical information will be shown.
"Scherley Busch's powerful photographs of Florida's women leaders
don't merely capture their images; they reflect the worlds they inhabit,
their very essences. " --Sun-Sentinel
"In her hands, a camera is more than lens and lever. It is a seeker
of soul." --Miami Herald
The Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the
Office of Governor Crist have invited Scherley Busch, a renowned
photographic artist, to exhibit her work at the Florida Capitol's
Cabinet Room Gallery, January 15 through April 21, 2008. In
collaboration with the Florida Commission on the Status of Women,
sponsors of this acclaimed exhibit invite you to experience the
exhibition as it appears in the state capitol to highlight the
celebration of Women's History Month, March 2008. CONTINUED
Florida Women of Achievement combines art, education and history in a
vivid photographic portrayal of women who have made contributions in the
areas of science, education, art, business, sports, philanthropy and
public service. Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Gloria Estefan, Chris Evert,
Ana Azcuy, U.S. Congresswomen Carrie Meek and Ileana Ros-Lehtenin,
Florida's first lady Adele Graham, U.S. Attorney Janet Reno and more
than 50 other women have sat before the lens of the renowned
photographer to be immortalized in the exhibition that has been shown at
over 35 venues including the U.S. Senate Russell Rotunda, Washington,
D.C., The Florida Governor's Mansion, The Tallahassee Artport Gallery,
The Historic Museum of Southern Florida, and the Spirit of Beijing
Conference in Tampa, Florida.
About the Artist:
Ms. Busch has been photographing Florida Women of Achievement since 1992
as she continues to add to portraits of history making women. Educated
in the fine arts, Ms. Busch developed a love for photography while
working at the United Nations in New York. Initiating her career in
photography in the 1970s, she exhibited fine art black and white and
color images captured in Spain where she had been living and studying.
This led her to an advertising-fashion photography career in Miami, as
one of the first female photographers entering commercial photography in
the South. She has instructed at the University of Miami and Miami-Dade
College. Today, she is recognized as one of the foremost portraitists in
the state. She continues to create her fine art images including series
Miami DreamScapes and Tropical Visions (selections will also be on
exhibit in the Capitol) and photographing editorial, corporate and
NINETEEN FLORIDIANS SURRENDER ON CHARGES IN ONGOING
INVESTIGATION INTO FRAUDULENT DRIVER LICENSES
Twenty-six arrested so far, hundreds more suspected to be involved
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the arrests this week of
19 additional Floridians accused of posing a risk to Florida’s and the
nation’s security by fraudulently obtaining Florida commercial driver
licenses (CDLs). Those arrested this week surrendered, some calling in
response to initial arrests last Friday. So far, 26 individuals have been
charged in the ongoing investigation, and authorities believe hundreds of
individuals may be involved. Some will also face charges of insurance
Between November 2005 and April 2007, civilians who had never been in the
military fraudulently obtained a United States Department of Defense waiver
form. The waiver indicated that the holder had been trained by the United
States Army to operate heavy vehicles. Some of these individuals, who had
never received or completed the required training, used these fraudulently
obtained CDLs to obtain either personal or commercial vehicle insurance.
“This scheme posed a risk to our nation’s security and put others on the
road in jeopardy because these drivers did not have the training they
claimed to have,” said CFO Sink. “I thank all of the law enforcement
agencies involved for working together to protect Floridians and our
CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services’ Division of
Insurance Fraud (DIF), said that today’s arrests follow an investigation by
DIF, the U.S. Department of Defense - Defense Criminal Investigative Service
(DCIS); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the Florida Highway
Patrol, and the Florida Department of Transportation Motor Carrier
Steven Baez, a sergeant with the Army National Guard stationed at the
Homestead Air Reserve Base in Homestead, sold each waiver form, Operator
Qualification Record DA FORM 348-E, for as little as $400 and as much as
$1,300. Baez pled guilty in October to one count of conspiracy to cause the
production of false identification documents and two counts of bribery of a
public official and faces up to 15 years in prison. His sentencing is
scheduled for January 16, 2008, before U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G.
Cooke. Today’s arrests are being prosecuted in Miami-Dade County and
sentences upon conviction could range from five to 10 years in prison.
“These arrests clearly demonstrate our commitment to thwarting identity
theft and document fraud,” said Anthony Mangione, special agent-in-charge of
ICE investigations in Miami. “Document fraud involves efforts to obtain
genuine identity documents through fraudulent means and the alteration of
valid documents to be used for fraudulent purposes. Identity and document
fraud pose a clear national security threat and we will continue working
tirelessly to identify, arrest and bring to justice those involved in these
Special Agent in Charge Christopher Amato, of the Pentagon's Criminal
Investigative Service, Southeast Field Office, stated, "The fraudulent use
of Department of Defense resources by a military member to violate the
integrity of our infrastructure is taken very seriously by the DCIS. The
DCIS will continue to play a vital role in the ongoing efforts to better
secure and protect our nation from both external threats and internal
Anyone who purchased one of these fraudulent waivers or has additional
information is urged to cooperate with the investigation by calling DIF Lt.
Bill Santner at 305-536-0355.
Those who surrendered this week are:
ALEGRIA, CARLOS – DOB 10/22/1974, Miami
CASTRO, SERGIO – DOB 1/19/1980, Hialeah
ESPINOZA, STEVEN - DOB 1/21/1968, Ft. Myers
FERNANDEZ, RAUL – DOB 2/13/1959, Miami
GOMEZ-PRESNO, ALEXANDER – DOB 4/14/1977, Miami
HORTA, RENE – DOB 10/8/1963, Miami
PENADO, JOSE ROLANDO – DOB 5/14/1974, Homestead
NIETO, YUNIER ¬– DOB 8/13/1984, Hialeah
PICON, LUSI MARIA – DOB 10/7/1967, Homestead
PUENTES, ANXEL – DOB 12/13/1985, Miami
PUENTES, JUAN BARBAR – DOB 9/21/1973, Opa Locka
RODRIGUEZ, EDUARDO – DOB 6/24/1972, Miami
RODRIGUEZ, ERNESTO – DOB 5/2/1945, Homestead
RODRIGUEZ, VICTOR – DOB 11/16/1981, Homestead
RODRIGUEZ, YOSIEL – DOB 7/7/1983, Miami
SIAN FABIO, JOSE A. – 8/25/1966, Homestead
VANEGAS, PEDRO – DOB 10/1/1973, Homestead
VASALLO, ROMAN MARIANO – DOB 4/30/1963, Mayo
VIEYRA, ANTONIO – DOB 6/13/1964, Homestead
These individuals were booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail.
Those arrested on Friday were:
DIAZ, GREGORY – DOB 11/27/1984, Miami
DIAZ, LINA BELKIS - DOB 12/19/1964, Miami
DIAZ, LUIS ENRIQUE - DOB 4/12/1969, Miami
FERNANDEZ, JOSE – DOB 12/19/1983, Homestead
MONTESINO, JESUS LUIS - DOB 8/15/1959, Miami
RAMOS, ADALBERTO – DOB 11/28/1967, Miami
RAMOS, JACINTO – DOB 9/11/1968, Homestead
These individuals were booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional
FACAP INVESTIGATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD
Detective Tommy Barron,
an arson detective in the northwest region for the Bureau of Fire and
Arson Investigations, was recently named 2007 Investigator of the Year
by the Florida Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention. Detective
Barron, who works with K-9 partner Amy, was recognized for demonstrating
the level of excellence sought by FACAP.
FIVE PENSACOLA JUVENILES CHARGED WITH ARSON,
Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink
announced today that five juveniles are facing arson and burglary
charges following an investigation into a fire that destroyed a
commercial building on January 3. No injuries were reported.
The arrests, which occurred today, are the result of a joint
investigation by the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal’s Bureau of
Fire and Arson Investigations, the Pensacola Fire Department and the
Pensacola Police Department. The juveniles, ages 8 to 13, were processed
through the Escambia County Jail and subsequently turned over to the
Juvenile Justice Center in Pensacola.
“Playing with fire not only is dangerous but also can lead to criminal
charges, as these children have unfortunately learned,” said CFO Sink.
“I am just very relieved that no one was injured.”
The juveniles allegedly destroyed Markham Sign Company, located at 1000
West Government St., after they broke in and started lighting matches or
a cigarette lighter they found, flipping the lit matches throughout the
front office and eventually igniting some loose papers inside the
office. The business was determined to be a total loss, with damages
estimated at $150,000.
The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is a law enforcement branch
of the Division of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local
fire and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of
suspicious origin. Anyone with information about this case or any
incident of fire is asked to call 1-877-662-7766 (1-877-NOARSON).
YOU CAN BE A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT
According to a recent Federal Trade Commission report, identity thieves
victimize up to 2,000 consumers every week, making identity theft one of
the fastest rowing crimes in the United States. The Florida Department
of Financial Services urges consumers to take precautions against
identity theft. Here are some actions you should take to protect your
If you discover or suspect your identity has been stolen in some way,
the Florida Department of Financial Services recommends that you take
immediate action. These are some steps to take.
FILE a report with your local law enforcement agency or with a
agency where you believe the identity theft happened. Keep a copy of the
in case your creditors need it later to verify the theft.
CONTACT the three credit bureaus. Tell them you’re an identity
theft victim and ask that they place a “fraud alert” on your accounts,
with a statement instructing creditors to get your permission before
opening any new accounts or changing any existing accounts in your name.
ORDER copies of your credit reports from the credit bureaus and
review them carefully. Make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have
been opened in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing
CALL every one of your creditors – card companies, banks, credit
unions, utility companies, phone services, retail stores and others – to
determine if any of your accounts have been tampered with or new
accounts opened fraudulently. Follow up your phone calls in writing, and
keep copies of all correspondence.
CLOSE accounts that have been tampered with and open new ones
with different Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords.
FILE a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity
Theft Hotline toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) TDD 866-653-4261.
Mail written complaints to:
Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
BE PATIENT. Your creditors are as anxious as you are to straighten
out the circumstances. Remember, when an ID thief strikes, victims can be
• When making a purchase, try to keep your debit/credit card
in your sight at all times.
• Review your monthly statements and question any unusual or unauthorized
• Shred receipts once you have matched them to your monthly statement.
• Be wary of anything suspicious at an ATM machine – for example, an
unusual piece of equipment.
NEVER give personal information to someone over the phone, on the
Internet or by mail unless you know who it is and you initiated the contact.
Check your mailbox every day. If you take a trip, ask the post office or a
trusted friend to hold your mail until you return. Send outgoing mail from a
post office or a post
office collection box. A red flag on your personal mailbox is a green light
to an ID thief.
ALWAYS ask for and destroy your credit card receipts. Review credit
card statements as soon as you get them. If you see any suspicious charges,
contact the card issuer immediately. In Florida in 2001, $60 to $70 million
was stolen by fraud. Do not enter your credit card numbers on unsecured
Internet sites. Make sure Internet vendors keep your credit card information
DO NOT write your Social Security number on your checks. Have new
checks delivered to your financial institution (bank, credit union, savings
association) for pickup, rather than your mailbox. Report lost or stolen
checks immediately. Review statements from financial institutions the
instant they arrive. Use ATMs in well lit areas, but never let anyone see
you enter your PIN number. Always
take your receipt from an ATM.
ASK how it will be used if someone wants to see your Social Security
number. If the answer doesn’t make sense to you, do not give your number.
Your Social Security number is one of your most valuable pieces of personal
identification. You will rarely need to show it.
SHRED all unwanted credit offers and other documents containing any
information about you before you throw them away. Keep all documents with
personal information in a safe place – especially if you have a roommate,
employ outside help, or are having work done on your home.
REVIEW your credit report at least once a year. Your report is
available for a small fee. The three main credit bureaus are:
Equifax – www.equifax.com
To order your report, call: 1-800-685-1111
or write: P.O.Box 740241, Atlanta, GA
To report fraud, call: 1-800-525-6285 and
write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA
Experian – www.experian.com
To order your report, call: 1-888-397-3742
or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013
To report fraud, call: 1-888-397-3742 and
write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion – www.tuc.com
To order your report, call: 1-800-888-4213
or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
To report fraud, call: 1-800-680-7289 and
write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division,
P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834
Consumer Services Helpline