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CFO Atwater Announces the Arrest of Two West Palm Beach Residents for Attempting to Steal Nearly $750,000 in Unclaimed Property

6/23/2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the arrest Thomas Harry Penquite and Maria Lourdes Gutierrez, both of West Palm Beach, after an Office of Fiscal Integrity investigation discovered that the two allegedly concocted an elaborate scheme designed to steal more than $730,000 from the state of Florida’s unclaimed property program.

“The unclaimed property program works daily to reunite Floridians with what rightfully belongs to them, and I commend the efforts of our Office of Fiscal Integrity for rooting out this scheme to derail their hard work,” said CFO Atwater. “This pair’s attempt to steal from their fellow Floridians was brazen, but I’m proud to say we prevented a single penny from going out the door.”

Penquite, along with his accomplice Gutierrez, reinstated at least three separate inactive Florida corporations, which included Castle Construction & Development Co., Ditco Service Corp., and the Ferrer Network in order to fraudulently collect the corporations’ unclaimed assets.

The investigation revealed that Penquite and Gutierrez purchased public records associated with each of the corporations and used those records to submit fraudulent reinstatement paperwork with the Department of State. The two co-conspirators also secured UPS mailboxes registered to each of the corporations and created email addresses in an attempt to assume the identity of these closed companies.

Rigorous verification efforts conducted by the Department’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property identified suspicious information and prevented the payout of any funds.
Penquite and Gutierrez are charged with a combined total of 47 felonies. Their charges each include: Aggravated White Collar Crime, Grand Theft, Filing Invalid Unclaimed Property Claims, and the Fraudulent Use of Personal Identification Information, each a first degree felony.
 
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 resources, visit www.getleanflorida.com or contact the Office of Fiscal Integrity at 850-413-5514.

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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).