Volume 8 Number 15 April 15, 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
Thomas Jefferson said it best, "Would it not be better to simplify the system of taxation rather than spread it over such a variety of subjects and pass your money through so many new hands?"
As we approach the federal income tax filing deadline on Monday, Jefferson's remarks still ring true today. The good news is this Thursday marked Florida Taxpayer Independence Day, the day when your hard-earned dollars become yours instead of sending them to the your government. Florida Tax Watch calculates this day based on the average number of days Floridians must work just to pay their taxes. This year it was 103 days - April 14.
This data and our staggering national debt make me more confident than ever that we could all stand to learn more from the words and lessons of our founding fathers.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak at the Israel Bonds luncheon with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. State of Israel Bonds is widely recognized as one of Israel's most valued economic resources, and has been a catalyst for Israel's rapid economic evolution. It was an honor to be invited to speak alongside Governor Haley to support the State of Israel.
On Tuesday I was invited to speak at the Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals and also had the chance to meet with Israel Consul General Ofer Bavly to discuss my office's partnership with financial institutions to waive the wire transfer fee for Holocaust survivors' reparation payments.
This past week was Great American Realtors Days in Tallahassee. I met with many realtors from all over our state and spoke to the Emerald Coast Realtors Association and at the Florida Realtors Association on Wednesday.
It is because of hard working Floridians such as the Mortgage Professionals and Realtors that the future of our state is bright today.
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater, together with State Attorney Jerry Hill, on Wednesday announced the arrests of three Polk County women charged with stealing state funds that were supposed to help citizens in need with utility costs. The arrests resulted from a joint investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Financial Services' (DFS) Office of Fiscal Integrity and the Florida Department of Community Affairs Inspector General.
Rosalind McCutchen Loften has been charged with grand theft and criminal use of personal identification information. Wilhelmina McMillan and Sheila McMillan were both charged with grand theft.
"Stealing state funds is no different than stealing directly from hard-working and honest Floridians and, in this case, from those who were in need," said CFO Atwater. "The Office of Fiscal Integrity was established to fight this type of fraud and will continue to protect your tax dollars."
Rosalind Loften, between January 2008 and June 2010, was employed by The Agriculture and Labor Program, Inc. (ALPI), in Lake Alfred, a non-profit corporation under contract to administer the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program provides energy assistance payments (utility payments) to eligible citizens.
In the summer of 2010, officials at ALPI and the City of Fort Meade discovered discrepancies in energy application files prepared by Loften and notified the Florida Department of Community Affairs Inspector General and the DFS Office of Fiscal Integrity.
Loften, while employed at ALPI, is accused of creating energy assistance application files containing fabricated, fraudulent and sometimes fictitious documents which generated illegal payments credited to utility accounts of Fort Meade residents and, in many cases, to Loften's personal utility account. Loften's alleged thefts total $15,622.71.
Sheila McMillan, a cousin of Loften, is a former employee of the City of Fort Meade where her duties included the receipt and processing of LIHEAP payments from ALPI. Sheila McMillan is charged with theft and accused of creating a new utility account in her own name and crediting ALPI energy assistance payments to her account.
Wilhelmina McMillan, Loften's mother, is accused of signing ALPI applications for energy assistance understating her true income, giving the appearance of eligibility when her income actually exceeded the income eligibility threshold.
The Office of Fiscal Integrity is responsible for statewide investigations of allegations of fraud, waste, or abuse involving State of Florida property and money. To report fraud, waste or abuse of State of Florida resources, call 1-800-GET-LEAN (1-800-438-5326) or the Office of Fiscal Integrity directly at (850) 413-5514.
"Almost a year has passed since the tragic Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and true to the committed and hardworking nature of Floridians, our state has bounced back. Florida is open for business, and these funds will help get the word out. Come see the most beautiful beaches in the world, swim in our crystal-clear waters and enjoy some fresh Florida seafood.
"Although many of our state’s businesses who suffered tremendous losses still await their claims to be paid from Mr. Feinberg, the announcement of these marketing funds will help draw tourists back to our state and help our business owners gear up for the summer season."
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater on Tuesday announced the arrest of one of Florida's "most wanted" insurance fraud criminals, defendant Erline Telfort, of Broward County. The arrest came last week as new information was provided through the CFO’s Public Assistance Fraud Unit after the launch of his “Most Wanted” insurance fraud website, www.MyFloridaCFO.com/PressOffice/MostWanted, which engages Floridians in the search for scammers who have eluded law enforcement.
A fraud investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud determined that Telfort, along with the principal operator of E&M Insurance Services and Santa Maria's Insurance Services, conducted a "Ponzi" scheme to steal approximately $500,000 from a finance company. Telfort, 29, is charged with organized fraud and criminal conspiracy.
"This arrest is a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication of our fraud investigators," said CFO Atwater. "For too long scam artists like these have been allowed to steal hard earned money from honest Floridians. I can assure you my office is up to the challenge of uncovering these schemes and continuing to bring the perpetrators to justice."
From January to December 2009, Telfort and Maralene Raymondville, who was arrested in November 2010 on similar charges, acted as agents for the Santa Maria Insurance Company and E&M Insurance, preparing over 200 fraudulent insurance policies and depositing over $600,000 into their business account.
Anyone with information regarding suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0455. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.
Alan Weitz, Vice President of Bal Bay Mortgages, was convicted earlier this month in Florida's 11th Circuit Court on two counts of grand theft in the first degree for his part in a $2.1 million mortgage fraud scheme. Weitz was arrested in June 2010 following a joint investigation by the Division of Insurance Fraud and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for his involvement in the fraudulent purchase of four properties.
Weitz paid several individuals to act as "straw buyers" and used their names and personal information to purchase property which concealed the identity of the true purchaser. An exaggerated appraisal led to the property being financed for more than it was worth, and Weitz pocketed the excess cash from the closing funds. Weitz faces up to seven years in state prison.
Make sure that you are knowledgeable on all your credit card's terms, especially the annual percentage rates and credit limit. For tips on how to get the most from your credit card visit: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/familyfiscalfitness/docs/5TipsforGettingtheMostfromYourCreditCard.pdf