Volume 8 Number 17  April 29, 2011

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Monday is Holocaust Remembrance Day—a day set aside to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust and commemorate the bravery of the victims and survivors of one of the darkest hours in human history. In remembrance of those who lost their lives, we must continue to honor those who are still with us today. Efforts to aid this important and cherished group of Floridians—Florida’s Holocaust survivors—must not be forgotten.

An estimated 12,500 Holocaust survivors call Florida home and, until recently, were being assessed an international wire transfer fee amounting to a 10 percent tax on each payment a survivor received. This March, I called on the chief executive officers of Florida financial institutions to voluntarily waive wire transfer fees on Holocaust repartition payments. Florida’s financial institutions rose to the occasion; 17 institutions with more than 1,800 branches statewide have already pledged to waive the wire transfer fees for Holocaust survivors—a powerful reflection of Florida’s financial community to contribute to the wellbeing of this important group of Floridians.

My goal is to have every financial institution in this state pledge to waive the wire transfer fees on Holocaust reparation payments so that not one more survivor would be taxed on the payments they so greatly deserve after suffering such an atrocity. As your CFO, there is nothing I can do that will ever fully repay those who suffered through the Holocaust, but, as we honor them next week, I will do all I can to help these survivors keep their money in their pockets, where it belongs.



Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

Statement Regarding Legislative Efforts to Fight Auto Insurance Fraud

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on Tuesday released the following statement recognizing Senators Chris Smith (D-Oakland Park), John Thrasher (R-Jacksonville), and Garrett Richter (R-Naples) for their efforts to pass two measures that will help fight automobile insurance fraud—requiring law enforcement officers to list all passengers in an accident and the creation of civil penalties for those convicted of auto insurance fraud, the proceeds of which will be used to fund additional anti-fraud efforts.

“Scam artists are continuing to find ways to bilk Florida’s auto insurance system and consumers are on the losing end. The efforts of Senators Smith, Thrasher and Richter to enact tougher fraud-fighting measures this Session demonstrate their commitment to rid our state of the scammers cheating our fellow Floridians out of their hard-earned dollars.”

“Absent much-needed reforms, fraud left unchecked will further drive up auto insurance premiums, forcing Floridians to pay more in tight budget times, or worse, leaving more Florida drivers with no choice but to go uninsured, putting us all at greater financial risk when we’re behind the wheel.”

Jackie Brice Lends Florida Beauty to the CFO's Office

Jackie Brice and CFO AtwaterCFO Atwater has, on loan, two beautiful Florida water/landscapes from Jackie Brice, an award-winningJackie Brice painting of the Loxahatchee River Florida artist.

Brice, a native Floridian, studied for many years with her mentor and friend, A.E.(Beanie) Backus and before that with Vela Boss of Miami.

Believing strongly that the greatest teaching tool for a landscape artist is painting outdoors, she has used this practice to capture the essence of Florida.

CFO Atwater is honored to display these great scenes of Florida in his office.

Division of Insuranced Fraud

Mortgage Company Owner Arrested in $1.2 Million Scam

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater on Tuesday announced the arrest of Jose Claudio Pereira, owner of BR Mortgage Group Corporation, on charges of racketeering for his part in fraudulent mortgage transactions in Broward, St. Lucie and Brevard counties.

“Mortgage fraud undermines the stability of Florida’s economy and passes costs on to hard-working and honest Floridians through higher premiums,” said CFO Atwater, “Our dedicated fraud investigators will continue to protect our economy and your hard earned dollars.”

An investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), revealed that in 2006, Pereira facilitated the procurement of over $1.2 million in fraudulent mortgage loans for five properties in St. Lucie and Brevard counties. Records indicate that BR Mortgage Group was paid nearly $50,000 for originating the loans.

United Guaranty Insurance Company, which provided mortgage insurance on the properties, assisted DIF in an investigation that revealed all five listed properties brokered through Pereira contained fraudulent documentation that the bank relied on when issuing the loans. The loans included fraudulent income and employment information as well as fake social security numbers.

Pereira was arrested late last week and booked in the Broward County Jail on $250,000 bond.

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.

CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Arrest of Boca Raton Man for Scamming Senior out of $25,000

Division of Insuranced FraudFlorida CFO Jeff Atwater announced the arrest of a former Boca Raton insurance agent for scamming a 78-year-old Miami woman out of $25,000. Jeffery Schneider, 44, has been charged with four felony counts including scheme to defraud and theft from a person over 65 years of age. Schneider acted without a license, which was revoked in March 2010 for numerous licensure violations.

“This man violated a senior’s trust and used it to defraud her out of thousands,” said CFO Atwater. “My office will continue to fight fraud aimed at Florida’s seniors and protect the hard-earned money they have worked to save.”

An investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, revealed that the victim knew Schneider for over seven years and considered him a trusted friend. She allowed him to handle her financial matters under the company Schneider Insurance Group. In 2008, Schneider offered the victim a way to maximize her investments through the purchase of an annuity and provided her with a brochure from Sun Life Financial, a legitimate investment company. On September 16, 2008, the victim gave Schneider a check in the amount of $25,000. On the same day, he deposited the $25,000 check into a Schneider Insurance Group bank account.

In October 2010, while reviewing his elderly mother's financial affairs, the victim's son noticed the missing $25,000. The victim explained that Schneider had invested the money on her behalf into a Sun Life Financial annuity account; however, the company determined no account was ever opened in her name.

Schneider was taken into custody Wednesday and transported to the Miami-Dade County jail.

Fraud investigators fear Schneider may have other victims that have not yet come forth. If you or someone you know conducted business with Jeffery Schneider or Schneider Insurance Group please call (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236) or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com for more information.

Magnolia Grill in Fort Walton Beach

Small Business Visit: The Magnolia Grill in Fort Walton Beach

While in Fort Walton Beach last week, I was able to visit Magnolia Grill and meet owners and long-time residents, Tom and Peggy Rice. Stop into Magnolia Grill and say hello to the Rices next time you are in the area!

Enforcement RoundupTheft Against an Elderly Victim

An investigation by the Division of Insurance Fraud led to the arrest of insurance agent William Anthony Abruzzino II on a charge of exploitation of the elderly for allegedly stealing more than $168,000 from a 71-year-old Alzheimer patient’s ATM account. Abruzzino, who has been operating as a financial advisor in Ocala and The Villages, turned himself in on the charge last week to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department.

Over a nine-month period, Abruzzino, who had been given power of attorney over all of the victim’s accounts and financial matters, wrote more than $127,000 in checks to himself from the victim’s accounts and used the victim’s ATM card more than 60 times to withdraw more than $41,000.

Financial Tips

Financial Literacy Month Weekly Tip Recap

Healthy money management is achieved through financial literacy. As financial literacy month comes to a close take a moment to review the financial tips from the month of April to help you start or maintain healthy money management.

A shocking 23 percent of individuals reported that over the past year, their household spent more than their income. Having a smart financial plan will ensure that Floridians won’t be living pay check to pay check, and struggling to make ends meet. Sticking to a budget is key to a successful financial plan.

With the increase in costs for basic necessities, it may seem impossible to save for your future. Saving must be a priority. Set a timeline to achieve your savings goal, and treat saving as a necessary expense, like rent or a car payment. My office’s savings calculators can help you reach your goal: www.myfloridacfo.com/familyfiscalfitness/docs/calc2/indexsavings.html.

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.

Identify your debt, write it all down and put it in order from the smallest amount that you owe to the largest amount that you owe. Still owe $80 on that credit card? Pay it off first. Once you’ve paid that off, move on to the next highest debt. Try to pay something beyond the minimum payment amount. When you pay only the minimum payment, you are steadily throwing your money into interest. Give your money real power by focusing as much as you can afford into paying off your debt.