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Gallagher Announces Arrests of Two Public Adjusters in $400,000 Hurricane Insurance Fraud Case


CONTACT: Nina Banister or Jeff Takacs
(850) 413-2842 
MIAMI—Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, announced today the arrests of two licensed public adjusters who fraudulently collected more than $400,000 from two insurance companies by submitting bogus contractor agreements.  The arrests were made by detectives in the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud. 
"Insurance fraud leads to higher insurance premiums which hit every Floridian in the pocketbook," said Gallagher, who oversees the department.  "We will continue to follow every lead regarding possible fraudulent activity and send a strong message that such abuse of our citizens will not be tolerated."
Jose Manuel Soler and Ariel L. Fernandez, of Coast to Coast Public Adjusters, allegedly submitted approximately 75 forged contractor agreements, resulting in an overpayment by Citizens Insurance of approximately $314,596.54.  Detectives said an additional 29 such documents were submitted to the Tower Hill Group resulting in a loss of approximately $125,281.81. 
Detectives said the forged contractor agreements were submitted in order to obtain an additional 20 percent of the estimated claim for overhead and profit.  The fraudulent contractor agreements stemmed from real claims for water pipe damage. Following each storm in 2004 and 2005, Gallagher capped public adjusters fees that could be charged to storm victims and implemented a 14-day day period for victims to rescind public adjuster contracts without a penalty.
Both Soler and Fernandez surrendered on the charges Thursday and were incarcerated in the Miami-Dade County Jail.  Each was charged with 104 counts of insurance fraud (third degree), 104 counts of grand theft (third degree) and one count of organized scheme to defraud (first degree) each.  Bail was expected to be set at $1,050,000.  Additional arrests are anticipated.
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates fraud in all types of insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation.  To report information about this case or any other possible insurance fraud case, 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 a conviction.