My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

This week, we announced two South Florida fraud cases that outline the fantastic work our investigators perform every day. In each case, individuals chose to lie and cheat their way to a cheaper insurance policy premium. By doing so, their scams cause insurance costs to rise for law-abiding families in Florida who pay their fair share for insurance. Division of Investigative & Forensic Services Badge

In the first case, an insurance agent trusted to assist Floridians make important insurance decisions, helped an individual attain a less expensive but inadequate insurance policy for an assisted living facility in Miami. The business owner applied for a residential homeowner’s policy, claiming that the building was used only for personal purposes. Therefore, the policy he ultimately obtained did not cover the business, leaving potential residents liable for any accidents that could have happened.

When individuals lie on insurance applications, the underlying insurance company oftentimes reserves the right to deny all claims because the policy was sold under false pretenses. The ramifications of this activity can be astronomical.

The second case involved an intricate web of lies, during which a South Florida construction company owner used check cashing stores to conceal the number of people he employed and his total payroll amount — two figures that are key to calculating workers’ compensation premiums. Investigators proved an annual payroll of $8.2 million, far more than the $112,000 the owner claimed. Because of his lies, he evaded paying more than $300,000 in workers’ compensation premiums, and left his entire workforce vulnerable in the event of an on-the-job injury.

As we debate big insurance issues in our state, such as AOB, PIP and the cost of flood insurance, we cannot overlook the overall cost of fraud within the insurance industry. While looking at ways to drive down the cost of insurance in Florida, I’ll keep my eye on continuing to aggressively fight fraud, too.

If you’d like to learn more about these two cases, look for stories in our “News of Interest” section below.

Sincerely,

Jimmy Patronis
Jimmy Patronis
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


News of Interest

MyPanhandle.com: FSU-PC Honors Jimmy Patronis, Awards Scholarships to Olds Family
Officials at the Florida State University Panama City campus honor Bay County business leaders who've had an impact on the community. The honors were part of the local campus' welcome back symposium Thursday. "This community gives so much to FSU Panama City and our goal is that we're giving just as much to our community," said Dean Randy Hanna. FSU-PC started the academic year by honoring Jimmy Patronis. "The Florida State Panama City campus here is a jewel. It's an asset here to Northwest Florida," said Patronis.

Insurance Journal: Miami Insurance Agent Arrested Over Assisted Living Facility Fraud Scheme
An investigation led by the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) Bureau of Insurance Fraud has led to the arrest of a Miami insurance agent for attempting to evade a higher insurance premium for his assisted living facility (ALF) client. According to Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and DFS, an investigation found insurance agent Claudia Estevez aided Ariel Mora by helping him submit a fictitious insurance application, allowing Mora to fraudulently obtain a less expensive, inadequate insurance policy.

WorkersCompensation.com: Workers' Comp Scam Leads to Arrest of Construction Company Owner
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis today announced the recent arrest of Juan Jose Castro, owner of JACM Construction Corp., after his alleged attempt to operate a shell company with the sole intent of circumventing the state's workers' compensation laws. A "shell company" is an entity that conducts no significant business operations and can be used as vehicle to conduct fraudulent financial transactions, such as workers' compensation fraud. Castro obtained a workers' compensation policy for JACM Construction Corp. April 25, 2017. When obtaining the policy, Castro provided his business operated with an estimated annual payroll of $112,000.00 for work classified under the description of wallboard installation and carpentry.

Sun-Sentinel: Insurers say auto glass companies leading new wave of claims abuses
A new front has opened in the ongoing battle between repair contractors and the insurance industry, and this time ground zero isn’t South Florida. Lawsuits between independent auto glass repair businesses that replace cracked and broken windshields and auto insurers that pay for them have increased dramatically over the past 10 years, and insurers are blaming the “assignment of benefits” tool, saying abuses could drive up rates for all drivers.

Miami Herald: We’re all teched up if the Big One strikes
In 1992, we were glued to our transistor radios or battery-powered TVs as weatherman Bryan Norcross guided us during and in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Andrew. Old school? You bet. Now, when another hurricane strikes, a whole army of technology will attempt to take his place. In the early 1990s, the World Wide Web was in its infancy and the Miami Herald and other media companies weren’t online yet. Cellphones weren’t prevalent, and they sure weren’t smart. And social media? Facebook and Twitter weren’t even around for a test drive in the 2004-05 hurricanes. Today, the experts get the lights back on, the cellphones ringing and the internet connections restored with the help of COWS (Cell on Wheels), drones and other smart technology to pinpoint problems and speed recovery.

Insurance Journal: As Congress Eyes Flood Insurance Renewal, Private Markets Get Ready
Unleashing the invisible hand that has been missing from the flood insurance market for nearly 50 years is no easy task. But private flood insurance experts say the change would be a good thing not only for private flood insurers but also for consumers. How much and how fast the private market for flood coverage will change depends on what Congress does to overhaul of the current federal program, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which expires on Sept. 30.

CFO Patronis Invites Floridians to Second Unclaimed Property Auction in Orlando

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis invites Floridians to participate in the state’s second and final 2017 unclaimed property auction this weekend in Orlando. The auction, featuring the sale of nearly 60,000 individual items valued at more than $625,000, is open to the public and will take place on Saturday, August 26, at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando. A public preview will be held Friday, August 25, at the same location. During the preview, Floridians can view and inspect items they may wish to bid on during the auction.

Featured items include a pair of 17.6-carat diamond and platinum earrings, a baseball autographed by members of the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series winning team, vintage Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra baseball cards, and high-end watches made by Breitling, Cartier and Rolex.

Join Florida's Treasure Hunt 2017 Unclaimed Property Auction Preview

Date: Friday, August 25
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: Florida Hotel and Conference Center
Address: 1500 Sand Lake Road, Orlando, Fla. 32809

2017 Unclaimed Property Auction

Date: Saturday, August 26
Time: 10:00 a.m. (Registrations opens at 8:00)
Location: Florida Hotel and Conference Center
Address: 1500 Sand Lake Road, Orlando, Fla. 32809

The unclaimed property auction features items from safe deposit boxes that have gone unclaimed for years despite exhaustive efforts to return them to their owners. Proceeds from the auction are deposited into the state’s education fund where they work to support Florida’s public school system. Should a property owner discover that he or she owned an item that was auctioned; however, the proceeds from the sale can be claimed any time at no cost.

For full details about this weekend’s auction, or to search for or claim unclaimed property, visit www.FLTreasureHunt.gov, or call 1-88-VALUABLE or 850-413-5555. A free catalog, which lists each item up for sale, is also available on the website.

Florida Economic Briefs

Unemployment rate holds steady
Florida’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent in July. This represents a 0.8 percent decrease over the previous year, and is 0.2 percent below the national unemployment rate of 4.3 percent.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Housing market continues to heat up
The market for new construction single family homes continues to gain momentum. The monthly national Housing Market Index, which rates current sales and expected future sales of new homes, increased from 64 (out of 100) in July to 68 in August. The South Region showed the largest increase, from 63 in July to 70 in August.
Source: National Association of Home Builders