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  Vol. 7 No. 5 September 2018

Noticias Útiles

El Oficial Principal de Finanzas Jimmy Patrinis Anuncia la Detención de un Exjugador de los Jacksonville Jaguars por un Fraude de Seguros de $78,000

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced today the arrest of former NFL player and assistant coach Marlon Tarron McCree for insurance fraud totaling nearly $78,000. McCree was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars and played for several teams during his nine-year NFL career. He served as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Jaguars in 2012.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime and costs honest Floridians millions of dollars every year. Just last year, our dedicated fraud detectives arrested nearly 1,000 individuals and recovered nearly $80 million in insurance fraud related restitution. My office will remain committed to bringing these criminals to justice and protecting your money."

In April 2018, a referral was submitted by Cigna Insurance to CFO Patronis' Bureau of Insurance Fraud indicating McCree submitted fraudulent doctor's certificates and letters to the Gene Upshaw Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) for the purpose of defrauding the fund. Cigna Insurance reported a total of $77,950.28 worth of claim submissions being made by McCree to his HRA account and a total of $31,579.52 had been paid by Cigna prior to the fraudulent activity being discovered. The investigation revealed McCree created fraudulent invoices listing All Smiles Dental in Jacksonville, Florida. According to records from All Smiles Dental, McCree was not, nor had ever been, a patient of the dental practice.

If convicted on all charges, McCree faces up to 30 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. To report suspected insurance fraud, call 1-800-378-0445 or www.myfloridacfo.com/division/difs. People reporting fraud can remain anonymous.

Be on the Lookout for Hurricane Florence Online Donation Scams

In the wake of Hurricane Florence's impact on North and South Carolina and Virginia, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis warns Floridians to be on alert for charitable donation scams typically using reputable crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe, RocketHub, Indiegogo, or YouCaring.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Last year a New Jersey couple made headlines for raising nearly $400,000 for a homeless veteran, and now they are accused of stealing that money to fund a lavish lifestyle. Charitable donation scams are among the most disgusting. Preying on people's emotions after a tragedy and then stealing from those who need it most, is unconscionable.

"Websites like GoFundMe have raised more than $5 billion since it first launched, with over $140 million raised each month. Most campaigns are legitimate, but Floridians should be cautious. Storms bring out the best in people but can also bring out the worst in some. Scams will show up for relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence and it's important to do your research before donating.

"I've directed my office to work with the appropriate state agencies overseeing charitable donations and certain types of crowdfunding in the state, to work on long-term solutions to go after these scammers and protect your money."

Tips to Avoid Hurricane Florence Online Donation Scams:

1. The More Information the Better. Stay away from donation campaigns that don't provide adequate information about the relief the money will provide.

2. Ask Questions. Typically, there are ways to comment on an online donation campaign. Use that tool to ask questions about how the money will be distributed, who the money will go to, and even how much goes to directly support hurricane relief.

3. Check Social Media & Research. If a group or individual is unfamiliar to you, research and research again. Scam artists will often times create a social media page right before they launch the donation campaign, so check to see how long they have been active. Even check the image they used for their profile to see if it's a stock image, which is a good indication the campaign is a scam. Even if the name of the group or individual sounds familiar, always do your homework.

4. Keep Records. Be sure to note exactly how much you donated, the name of the individual or group launching the donation campaign and any additional information that has been supplied. Even consider taking a screenshot of the web page.

5. Don't Feel Pressured. Those who are running online scams typically try to pressure you to donate IMMEDIATELY.

If You Commit Insurance Fraud after a Hurricane, You Will be Arrested

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Carlos Guillermo Aponte, 44, of Palmetto Bay for three counts of insurance fraud and grand theft to defraud Citizens Property Insurance Corporation of more than $30,000 relating to Hurricane Irma. Formed in the wake of Hurricane Irma, CFO Patronis' Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team (DFAST) deployed boots on the ground to combat insurance fraud and educate consumers on what to look out for after a storm.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Often times disasters bring out the best in people, but unfortunately, it also brings out the worst in some. Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime and is the main cause that drives up insurance rates. Just this summer, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation cited fraud and litigation costs as the main reason for a proposed rate increase.

"I created the Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team after Irma to combat insurance fraud and since then, this team has worked diligently so that we can help ensure your insurance rates are affordable. As we've seen with Hurricane Florence, this hurricane season is far from over and we must stay on guard to fight fraud before and after a storm."

CFO Patronis' DFAST received a tip after Aponte filed two claims alleging additional damages and loss of rent on his property as a result of Hurricane Irma. The investigation revealed Aponte submitted fraudulent invoices and false rental agreements along with fraudulent letters claiming loss of rent for four months totaling $30,580.

Aponte was arrested September 14 and transported to a Miami-Dade jail. If convicted on all charges, Aponte could face up to 45 years in prison and up to $45,000 in fines.

$50,000 Workers' Comp Fraud Scheme Put Employees at Risk

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Vanessa Arreguin, 25, owner of V&G Concrete, Inc. for workers' compensation fraud. Over the course of two years she conducted more than $7.5 million in business, but claimed she made less than $50,000. By doing so, she deliberately evaded paying $51,000 in workers' compensation premiums. Arreguin was charged with three felony counts of concealing payroll to avoid workers' compensation premiums and two felony counts of application fraud.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Workers' compensation fraud puts employees at risk and drives up insurance rates for honest businesses. Last year alone, our fraud detectives made more than 400 arrests for workers' compensation fraud and I can assure you my office will continue to hold these individuals accountable."

Arreguin surrendered to insurance fraud detectives at the Palm Beach County Jail and was released on bond. If convicted on all charges, Arreguin faces up to 20 years in prison. To report suspected insurance fraud, call 1-800-378-0445 or www.myfloridacfo.com/division/difs. People reporting fraud can remain anonymous.

Florida Must Protect Our Heroes from Fraud

financial frontlines graphicWith more than 1.5 million veterans calling Florida home, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis warned veterans and all military servicemembers on Military Consumer Protection Day of some of the top scams targeting this community, and reminded the military community to take advantage of the benefits they have earned through their service.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Florida has the third largest population of veterans in the nation. Research shows veterans are twice as likely to be targeted for scams, and we must help raise awareness within Florida’s veterans and the entire military community. Empowering our heroes and their families to safeguard their finances helps protect those who protect us. Our military members, both past and present, should be aware of some of the top scams we see targeting this community.

"On top of helping veterans ward off scams, it’s important to note that approximately $500 million in veterans’ benefits go unclaimed in Florida. These are benefits that could make a major financial difference for our military community and their families. We must work together to bring awareness to the many benefits and resources they have rightfully earned through a life dedicated to serving our nation."

1. Benefits Buyout Offer—This scheme offers a quick lump-sum buyout for future disability or pension payments. Companies that offer this buyout often only end up paying a fraction of the veteran’s benefits over time. Veterans should think twice about entering such an agreement.

2. Secret Benefits Scam—A caller says the veteran is missing out on money, but must pay a fee to claim it. Veterans benefits are available to claim at any time free of charge. Florida veterans should contact the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) for questions regarding unclaimed benefits.

3. Phishing Scam—A caller claims to work for the federal government and asks veterans for Social Security Numbers and personal financial information to update military records. Active military and veterans should never give out personal information over the phone. Do not click on hyperlinks contained in emails from unknown individuals or businesses.

4. Phony Employment Scam—Scammers are aware that past military experience appeals to many employers and use that to their advantage. Scam artists will collect personal information by advertising fake positions to steal someone's identity or may even charge a fee for locating a job that doesn’t exist. If a company or organization is mentioned in an ad or interview, contact that company directly to find out if they are hiring.

5. Mortgage Relief Scam—Military homeowners looking for assistance with paying their mortgage should be cautious of this type of scam. Some mortgage relief companies will try to convince servicemembers and veterans to pay a fee in exchange for a loan modification or to stop foreclosure. It’s against the law for mortgage relief companies to charge any money until you have been given a written offer from your lender and you have accepted it. If you’re struggling to make you mortgage payment, there are legitimate programs that can help.

6. Pension Scam—Veterans 65 and over are targeted by financial advisers persuading them to transfer pensions into a special trust and charge excessive fees. The advisers claim to help veterans qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, but may cause them to lose eligibility for Medicaid or access to their pension.

7. Credit Repair Scam—Scam artists claim to improve your credit score, remove bankruptcies, judgments and liens, and repair your credit. Under federal law, credit repair companies cannot require you to pay any fees until they have completed the service they promised. Financial counselors on your military installation can help review your credit report free of charge and dispute errors on the report. Active military servicemembers should also consider freezing their credit before deploying. As of July 1, 2018, credit reporting agencies can no longer charge a fee to freeze your credit.

CFO Patronis’ office works diligently through the Financial Frontlines program to ensure Florida’s military community has access to the benefits and services they have earned. One way to ensure benefits are received is to update all personal information so that family members receive benefits they qualify for as well. The FDVA’s Benefits and Services page provides servicemembers, veterans and loved ones with information and resources that are available.

$1.4 Million Acupuncture Insurance Fraud Scam Lands Owner in Jail

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Jill Hollis Jaynes, a licensed acupuncture and owner of Absolute Integrated Medicine (AIM), for participating in a more than $1.4 million insurance fraud scheme stemming from 2,470 false insurance claims.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, "Insurance fraud increases rates for everyone. Protecting Floridians is our top priority. We remain committed to bringing these criminals to justice and protecting your money. I commend the efforts by our team and know we will keep finding insurance fraud criminals."

An investigation by CFO Patronis' Bureau of Insurance Fraud (BIF) found that from September 2013 to December 2016, Jaynes enticed patients, covered under Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plans, to use her acupuncture clinic by waiving the required deductible and coinsurance for patients. Jaynes also provided herbal supplements and vitamins at no cost as an incentive. Jaynes recovered the costs of the supplements by submitting more than 2,400 fraudulent insurance claims to BCBS and billed the same codes for insurance claims, regardless of the actual treatment provided to the patient.

Jaynes is charged with racketeer influenced corrupt organization (R.I.C.O), false and fraudulent insurance claims, waiving of deductible/co-payment, patient brokering and organized scheme to defraud. If convicted, Jaynes could face up to 85 years in prison.

Jaynes was arrested and booked into the Indian River County Jail and bail is set at $955,000.

Ken Lawson Named Cryptocurrency Advisor

In a continued effort to bring clarity to cryptocurrency in Florida, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis named Ken Lawson, president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, as cryptocurrency advisor. In this role, he will lead efforts to identity a cryptocurrency chief and collaborate with stakeholders to ensure innovation and economic development are at the forefront while getting ahead of potential fraud. Lawson will work with CFO Patronis' law enforcement team, regulatory entities, existing cryptocurrencies, and business stakeholders.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Ken's experience in both the private and public sectors, his investigatory work to protect our financial system, and work to drive economic growth in Florida, makes him a tremendous asset to the cryptocurrency space. Considering the Seminole County Tax Collector now accepts Bitcoin as a form of payment, two of Florida's major metro areas are in the top 10 cities in the world that are cryptocurrency friendly, and Florida being a top target for consumer fraud, we need someone who has both the business and investigative experience to provide the needed guidance on our efforts to bring oversight to the industry. Ken is that individual and I know he will take every action possible to protect Floridians while making Florida the leader for emerging digital asset technology and innovative ideas."

Ken Lawson added, "I'm thrilled to take on this advisory role to help bring transparency to cryptocurrency in Florida. In this role, I'll be assisting the CFO in his efforts to ensure accountability and oversight for this important industry in Florida. Outside of my full-time role at VISIT FLORIDA, I'm excited about working with CFO Patronis to accomplish his goal of protecting Floridians from criminals who seek to use new technology to scam people and allowing innovation to flourish in our state."

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El Oficial Principal de Finanzas Jimmy Patronis Anuncia el Arresto de un Incendiario Serial en el Condado de Palm Beach, Provocó Incendios que Costaron $300,000

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of serial arsonist Benjamin Harris, 54, of Lake Worth for 10 counts of 2nd degree arson in Palm Beach County, causing $300,000 in damage. He was apprehended in South Carolina Tuesday evening by U.S. Marshals. Harris had previously served eight years in prison for arson.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Destruction of personal property by arson is a very serious and dangerous crime. It not only destroys property, but can destroy lives. I'm proud of our arson investigation team and their collaboration with the U.S. Marshals to bring this fugitive to justice."

An investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Division of Investigative and Forensic revealed security camera footage of Harris approaching a group of RVs at Waits RV Center in Riviera Beach that were set on fire, causing more than $300,000 in damage. Harris was convicted in 2005 for a chain of arson-related fires in St. Lucie and Palm Beach Counties.

Harris was booked into the Colleton County jail in South Carolina pending extradition to Florida. The Department would like to thank the U.S. Marshals Service and the Walterboro Police Department for their assistance in this arrest. Harris was wanted by U.S. Marshals for federal warrants out of the Fort Pierce, Florida for violation of probation with an original charge of use of explosives during a felony.

If convicted on all charges, Harris faces up to 150 years in prison. To report suspected arson, call our Arson Tip Hotline at 1-877-NO-ARSON (662-7766). People reporting arson can remain anonymous.

National Flood Insurance Program Extension Good for Floridians, Reforms Can't Skyrocket Rates

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis released the following statement on congressional action to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until November 30, 2018, coinciding with the end of the 2018 Hurricane Season.

"Flooding is a statewide issue, not just a coastal concern, and it's important that Florida families take the steps needed to protect their largest asset - their home - from damage. One of the best ways to do this is to have flood insurance. As we approach the peak of the 2018 Hurricane Season, a lapse of the NFIP would have a devastating impact on our state. Considering that floods in Florida have cost more than $5.1 billion over the last 40 years, Florida families and businesses can't be blindsided when it comes to flood protections.

"The extension comes while talk continues about reforming the program. Any discussion must include keeping rates affordable for Floridians. As the largest donor state to the NFIP, Floridians shoulder the majority of the financial burden for a much-needed coverage. Insurance market certainty and protecting our taxpayers are essential to reforms, but we must also support and encourage private sector involvement. Florida has been a leader in crafting private market solutions and a competitive marketplace will help protect our residents at a reasonable cost."

Insurance Fraud Charges Filed in Williams Murder Case

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis' office charged Denise Williams with three counts of insurance fraud greater than $100,000, all first-degree felonies. In May, CFO Patronis directed his Division of Investigative and Forensic Services to investigate life insurance fraud relating to Mike Williams' disappearance nearly two decades ago.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "The Williams case is a tragedy that has shocked the Tallahassee community and reverberated across the nation. The insurance fraud charges are just one part of this case, and I assure the community we will work diligently toward a successful prosecution. Insurance fraud is a very serious crime, one that impacts every single insurance consumer. It's especially disturbing when an individual is attempting to profit off someone's death. I am proud of our dedicated insurance fraud team for their commitment to bringing criminals to justice."

CFO Patronis' Division of Investigative and Forensic Services conducted a criminal investigation into the facts surrounding the insurance claims which followed Mike Williams' death. This investigation found that Denise Williams fraudulently listed the cause of death as "accidental drowning" for three insurance policies. According to testimony, Denise Williams knew her husband would be the victim of a homicide.


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