El Oficial Principal de Finanzas Jimmy Patronis Anuncia la Detención de un Techador de Clearwater por Robo y Fraude de Seguros por Casi $50,000
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Terry Wayne LaCoste, owner of Terry W. LaCoste Weathertight Systems, Inc. and David E. Gilliland, Inc., after allegedly attempting to defraud multiple homeowners out of more than $49,000 and working without workers' compensation insurance.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "It is shameful for crooked contractors to take advantage of Floridians while you are simply trying to protect your biggest investment, your home. Fraud like this also steals work from honest businesses and drives up insurance rates for everyone. Remember to always verify before you buy and ensure that the contractor you're hiring is reputable and has the proper insurance coverage before allowing them to start work on your property."
CFO Patronis' Bureau of Workers' Compensation Fraud received a tip from the Pinellas County Consumer Protection, Clearwater Police Department and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office regarding complaints against LaCoste. Investigations revealed that LaCoste victimized a total of six homeowners by making them pay deposits up-front for roofing work. LaCoste either never started on the job or never finished the contracted work. In total, the victims had a financial loss of $49,447 combined. The investigation also revealed that LaCoste was working without the proper workers' compensation insurance coverage.
LaCoste was arrested on December 18 and transported to the Pinellas County Jail without incident. He faces charges of organized scheme to defraud, theft/misappropriation of construction funds, and working without workers' compensation insurance coverage. If convicted on all charges, LaCoste faces up to 15 years in prison.
El Oficial Principal de Finanzas Jimmy Patronis Anuncia la Detención del Director de una Escuela Primaria de Jacksonville por Fraude de Seguros
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Darrell Perry, Principal of Timucuan Elementary in Jacksonville, in an alleged attempt to commit over $16,000 in insurance fraud related to Hurricane Irma. Perry attempted to defraud State Farm Insurance Company for damages claimed to be sustained during Hurricane Irma.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Lying about hurricane damage while many Floridians lost everything during Hurricane Irma is sickening. Insurance fraud takes money from Florida families with legitimate claims and drives up insurance rates for us all. As many Floridians recover from Hurricane Michael that impacted our state one month ago, I want to put everyone on notice: If you choose to commit insurance fraud to make a quick buck, you will be thrown in jail."
Investigations revealed Perry submitted fraudulent and altered repair invoices to State Farm Insurance Company requesting $16,042 in reimbursements due to alleged damages to his home from Hurricane Irma. Investigators found that Perry altered two of the invoices and fabricated another for fake repairs that never occurred.
Perry turned himself in to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office on November 16. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.
CFO Jimmy Patronis: Citizens Rate Hike a Sad
Result of Deceptive AOB Practice
Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis released the following statement regarding the vote by the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation Board of Governors to increase rates by an average of 8.3 percent statewide. CFO Patronis has two appointees on the Board and appoints the Chair.
"It's concerning that Citizens was unable to find solutions to address nonweather water losses and increased litigation as requested of them in June. These two factors are the major cost drivers increasing insurance rates in our state across the entire industry. Out of the lawsuits Citizens is involved in, 36 percent are related to assignment of benefits. Abuse of assignment of benefits has become a deceptive practice, aimed to lure consumers into a false sense of security.
"While I look forward to seeing if Citizens' managed repair program actually helps this multi-faceted problem, it's clear that these rate drivers need a more surgical approach. Blanket solutions won't fix increasing insurance rates for Florida families. It's important that Floridians are protected from the bad actors who prey on vulnerable situations and try very hard to pry money from your pocket.
"We need to bring everyone to the table - that includes insurers, attorneys, contractors, and state leaders - to find the best solutions to addressing this mounting problem."
El Oficial Principal de Finanzas Jimmy Patronis Anuncia la Detención de un Hombre en Miami por Robar $60,000 en Primas de Seguros Falsas a Transportistas Comerciales
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Kenny Niebla, owner and operator of Andoba Trucking Company and Sea Trucking in Hialeah, after allegedly selling fraudulent insurance coverage with certificates of insurance totaling nearly $60,000 to three local commercial truckers.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Pocketing insurance premiums for your own financial gain is despicable. It puts the victim in the dangerous position of going without proper insurance coverage, and puts unsuspecting drivers in a financially risky position. If you choose to commit fraud to make a quick buck, my office will find you and make sure you pay the price."
Investigators revealed that Niebla had been collecting monthly insurance premium payments from three victims spanning between October 2017 and June 2018. Records indicated that Niebla had received $59,675 in premium payments from which were never applied towards any insurance policy as promised. Niebla instead kept the funds for his own self gain and as a result, the commercial vehicles were unknowingly being operated uninsured. The fraud scheme was discovered when one of the commercial trucks was involved in an accident causing over $78,000 in uninsured damage.
Niebla was arrested without incident on November 30, 2018 and transported to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on several counts of grand theft, insurance funds diversion, uttering forged instruments, and organized scheme to defraud. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
CFO Jimmy Patronis Updates on Hurricane
Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis has been on the ground in the Panhandle affected counties since Hurricane Michael made landfall. He has been in constant communication with emergency management, local, state, and federal officials to assist with anything they may need. CFO Patronis is focused now on stopping post-storm fraud and urges Floridians to call his Insurance Help Line at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO to report anything suspicious.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle. I've witnessed firsthand the amazing strides these resilient communities have made towards recovery. I want the nation to know that the Panhandle is open for business and we are on our way back and will be stronger than ever.”
URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAMS
• CFO Jimmy Patronis’ Division of State Fire Marshal oversees activation of Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue Teams. At peak, there were 2,420 personnel deployed from all over Florida and 12 different states.
• Searches are 100 percent complete.
• CFO Patronis met with Task Force 1, Task Force 3, Task Force 4, and Task Force 5.
• Combined Urban Search and Rescue efforts exceeded Hurricane Irma response by 30 percent.
INSURANCE VILLAGES & ANTI-FRAUD STRIKE TEAMS
• Constant boots on the ground in all affected counties.
• CFO Patronis’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Teams are on the ground, raising awareness about post-storm fraud and searching for anyone trying to prey on residents.
• CFO Patronis’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike teams removed three unlicensed contractors conducting business in Leon, Gadsden, and Gulf counties. The contractors are banned from soliciting or conducting any work in Florida pending a full investigation.
• CFO Patronis’ teams are continuing to investigate reports of potential fraud in Bay, Gulf, Washington, and Leon counties. Unlicensed activity can put homeowners and contractors at risk and opens the door to fraud. Consumers should always verify that contractors have the appropriate licenses, including workers’ compensation coverage, before they hire a company to assist in repairs after a storm.
• CFO Patronis hosted an insurance village in Marianna on Monday, October 22 until Tuesday, October 23. There were 17 insurance companies on hand to assist residents.
• CFO Patronis hosted an insurance village in Tallahassee on Thursday, October 18. There were 18 insurance companies on hand to assist residents.
• CFO Patronis hosted an insurance village in Bay County on Tuesday, October 16 until Friday, October 19, serving nearly 1,000 people. There were more than 44 insurance companies and FEMA on hand to assist residents with any insurance or financial assistance questions. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon were also present at the insurance village.
• Insurance consumer experts were on the ground in Liberty and Gadsden counties on Saturday, October 20 to assist residents with the insurance claims process.
• There are teams from CFO Patronis’ Office and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier’s Office in Bay County, Wakulla County, Franklin County, Gulf County, Washington County, Jackson County, Liberty County, Calhoun County, Holmes County, and Taylor County.
• CFO Patronis’ and Commissioner Altmaier's Offices attended multiple town hall meetings in Washington, Liberty, Holmes and Jackson Counties the last two weeks to discuss recovery efforts with community leaders and residents.
• Before the storm hit, CFO Patronis and Commissioner Altmaier hosted a conference call with major insurance carriers in the Panhandle, putting them on notice so that they would be ready to serve Florida families after Hurricane Michael.
RECLAMACIONES DE SEGUROS
• There are 125,356 insurance claims associated with Hurricane Michael – this number will grow.
• Estimated $3,430,014,424 in insured losses.
• As of November 14th, there were 3,189 Citizens Property Insurance Corporation claims estimated at $142 million.
• Florida currently has 93,108 licensed and appointed adjusters.
• There are also 3,642 emergency adjusters available to respond to Hurricane Michael claims (in addition to the 93,108).
As Hurricane Season Ends, Efforts to Secure
Flood Coverage Should Not
As the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season ended, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis are reminding consumers that now is not the time to be complacent when protecting yourself from the impacts of flooding. Consumers are urged to take action now to review their insurance policies, understand their coverages and secure flood insurance coverage.
As discussions surrounding the future of the federally-administered National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) continue, OIR has proactively worked alongside CFO Patronis' office to expand Florida's private flood insurance market. As of September 1, 2018, there are 29 insurers eligible to write private primary personal residential flood insurance in Florida writing more than 44,000 policies, a 110 percent increase in policies in force since June 2017. This coverage is usually offered at prices similar to or lower than those of the NFIP, providing more consumer choice and an alternative to the federal program. Additional insurers are pending entry.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, "While Hurricane Season is coming to an end and the NFIP is set to expire, our flooding risk remains and everyone should make sure they are covered. Florida has been the leader when it comes to flood mitigation and fostering private market solutions. Flooding can happen anywhere and anytime and there are many policy options available to protect your home and business. Do not wait until it’s too late."
Commissioner Altmaier said, "Catastrophic flooding is not limited to the six-month hurricane season or how close in proximity one’s home is to the coast. Due to the unique geography of our state, flooding poses a serious threat to virtually every homeowner and can occur at a moment’s notice at any time. In fact, FEMA has reported that more than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside of flood zones."
A basic homeowners' insurance policy typically does not provide coverage for flooding and this coverage must be purchased separately through a private insurance company or the NFIP. Flood insurance coverage can often be purchased directly from a consumer’s existing insurance agent or company. For a list of private market flood insurance writers in Florida, visit this link.
For more information on ways to protect yourself from flood damage, please visit OIR’s Hurricane Season Resources webpage, CFO Patronis' Hurricane Season Preparedness webpage, or contact CFO Patronis' Insurance Consumer Helpline by calling 1-877 MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).
CFO Jimmy Patronis’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team (DFAST) Arrests Unlicensed Contractor Following Hurricane Michael
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of Ashley Porterfield, owner of Porterfield Building, by his Disaster Fraud Action Strike Force (DFAST) for allegedly conducting unlicensed roofing repairs following Hurricane Michael.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "The Panhandle is recovering after Hurricane Michael, but unlicensed contractors could deal another blow to Florida families. Unlicensed activity puts Floridians in danger and takes business away from reputable contractors that follow the law. Before allowing anyone to make repairs, verify they have the required licenses and insurance. While hurricane season ends tomorrow, we will keep working to protect residents and business owners as they rebuild."
While deployed to the Panhandle following Hurricane Michael, CFO Patronis’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team (DFAST) observed employees of Porterfield Building repairing a damaged roof. Investigators made contact to verify the company had the proper licensure and workers’ compensation insurance coverage required by Florida law. It was discovered that Porterfield was not licensed to conduct business in the state.
Porterfield was arrested November 20 and booked into the Bay County Jail on charges of unlicensed contracting, a third-degree felony during a state of emergency. If convicted, Porterfield could face up to 5 years in prison.
More Than One Month After Michael, Insurers
Must Step It Up
Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier spoke with insurance company executives and called on the industry to step up more to aid in Hurricane Michael recovery.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Before Hurricane Michael hit, I put Florida’s insurance industry on notice that I expected they would move quickly to help residents recover. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case all around. My office has noticed several alarming trends since the storm made landfall including delays in processing claims. What is even more troubling is that 13 percent of complaints to my office were related to claim denials.
"To put this into perspective: Hurricane Irma touched almost every county in our state, impacting millions. Thirty days after Irma, we had approximately 200 consumer complaints. Hurricane Michael impacted 12 counties. Thirty days later, we have received more than 100 consumer complaints. There is no reason that we should have this many complaints for an impacted area that is a small fraction of Irma’s. It’s completely unacceptable.
"My expectations have not changed. In fact, they are even higher. I expect insurers will step it up so that families and businesses can get back to normal. If insurers don’t step up, not only will recovery be delayed but consumers will be even more vulnerable to fraud."
Commissioner David Altmaier said, "To be clear; all insurance-related needs held by impacted consumers must be addressed swiftly and without delay. My office continues to work alongside CFO Patronis and the Department of Financial Services to monitor the progress of the post-storm response and we’ll continue doing so to ensure residents impacted by Hurricane Michael are protected throughout their path to recovery. Insurance companies must fulfill the promises they’ve made to their policyholders."
More than 40 company representatives participated in the call. Consumers who have questions about policy coverages or need help filing a claim can call CFO Patronis’ free Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236).
Florida in Good Financial Position to Recover
from Hurricane Michael
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis released the following statement regarding Moody's credit reporting agency's recent report about the financial impact of Hurricane Michael on Florida.
"The news from Moody’s Investors Service that Florida will not only weather Hurricane Michael, but our response and resiliency is viewed as a credit positive, is the news that the impacted communities and our state need to hear at this time. Insured losses are more than $2 billion and while we know that number will climb, Florida is resilient because of our strong economy and fiscal discipline.
"Florida has a AAA credit rating from all three credit rating agencies and we have paid down $10 billion in debt in the past eight years. Our solid fiscal health has put us in a good position to not only recover but come back stronger than ever. While we are heartened that we will make a great recovery, we want everyone outside the state to know that the Panhandle is open for business and many coastal areas had minimal impact from the storm. Come visit Florida!"
To view Moody's full report, click aquí.
Understand What You Are Signing During Hurricane Michael Recovery
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis and Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier warn Floridians recovering from Hurricane Michael to use caution when asked to sign any paperwork. You could be signing an Assignment of Benefits (AOB). An AOB transfers the insurance claims rights or benefits of your insurance policy to a third party and it may be presented to a homeowner before repair work begins.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Many of our neighbors in the Panhandle lost everything a week ago to Hurricane Michael and the last thing they need is complications during the rebuilding process. When approached by contractors, homeowners must be extremely careful if asked to sign any financial paperwork, including an AOB. In some cases, AOB’s can delay the claims process and your recovery. Be sure to read everything and understand what you are signing before you give away your rights as a homeowner."
Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said, "Hurricane Michael left widespread devastation in its wake and as a result, our residents are in a vulnerable state of mind. Homeowners must remain vigilant, review any documents they are asked to sign and use caution when signing an AOB. Consumers can always file a claim directly with their insurance company to maintain control of the rights and benefits provided by their insurance policy throughout their recovery."
After assessing damage to your home, restoration professionals may encourage homeowners to sign an AOB. By doing so, you are giving a vendor the right to exclusively communicate with your insurance company, negotiate and endorse insurance claim payments and potentially file a lawsuit against the insurance company, with or without your knowledge.
The following tips will assist homeowners during their recovery:
• Read your insurance policy and understand what your responsibilities are following a loss.
• Contact your insurance company prior to signing any document that may contain an AOB.
• If the homeowner elects to sign the AOB, read everything carefully and do not feel pressured to sign it. Remember, signing an AOB is not your only option.
• Beware of language that allows all proceeds of the claim to be made to anyone other than the homeowner or the homeowner’s mortgage company.
• Do not sign the document if there are any blank spaces.
Homeowners should contact their insurance agent, insurance company or CFO Patronis’ Insurance Consumer Helpline (1-877-693-5236) for assistance when making repairs after a storm. For more information, please visit CFO Patronis’ Asignación de Beneficios webpage or read the Office of Insurance Regulation’s AOB Resources.
Unlicensed Contractors Caught Following Hurricane Michael
Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis announced three contractors conducting business in Leon, Gadsden, and Gulf counties have been removed from the Panhandle by his Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team for unlicensed activity following Hurricane Michael. The contractors are banned from soliciting or conducting any work in Florida pending a full investigation.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "Anyone who tries to take advantage of Florida families and businesses during this vulnerable time will be caught. I can’t stress this enough: do not hire anyone without asking for their professional license information and if they have workers’ comp insurance.
"Residents and businesses are focused on getting back to normal as quickly as possible, so scam artists are peddling false promises of fast repairs and no hassle. I am working to stop post-storm fraud and throw anyone who commits these crimes in jail."
CFO Patronis’ teams are investigating reports of potential fraud in Bay, Gulf, Washington, and Leon counties. Unlicensed activity can put homeowners and contractors at risk and opens the door to fraud. Consumers should always verify that contractors have the appropriate licenses, including workers’ compensation coverage, before they hire a company to assist in repairs after a storm.
Tips to Stop Post-Storm Fraud:
• Beware of Crooked Contractors. Watch for a contractor or restoration professional who: offers to waive or discount your insurance deductible; has received payment and has failed to provide any repairs; offered to provide repairs at a cash-only discounted rate and has failed to provide repairs; or pressured you to sign an assignment of benefit (AOB) and has failed to provide any repairs to your home or stopped responding to your contact attempts.
• Don’t Sign Anything. Call your insurance agent, insurance company, or CFO Patronis’ Insurance Consumer Helpline (1-877-MY-FL-CFO) before you sign anything, including assignment of benefits agreements.
• Too Good to Be True? It Probably Is. If an offer sounds too good, it most likely is. Don’t deal with anyone who demands cash up front.
• Beware of Door-to-Door. Imposters often go door-to-door claiming to be FEMA representatives, asking for money to assist with the filing of federal flood claims.
• Check a License. If you have damage to your home or vehicle, contact your insurance company immediately. Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses and hire only licensed professionals. If you have access to internet, verify a contractor’s license at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s website - www.MyFloridaLicense.com/.
CFO Patronis’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team was formed in 2017 after Hurricane Irma to stay ahead of post-storm fraud. The Strike Team was activated before Hurricane Michael made landfall and had boots on the ground immediately following the storm.
To report any suspicious activity call CFO Patronis’ help line at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.
CFO Jimmy Patronis Announces 20 Fraud Arrests
in Pasco County Joint Crooked Contractor Sting
Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of 20 individuals in “Operation Hot Water,” a workers’ compensation insurance fraud sting operation involving unlicensed contractors in Pasco County.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Workers’ compensation fraud creates an unfair advantage for dishonest businesses and can leave employees at risk and vulnerable. My office has made more than 400 arrests for workers’ compensation fraud, an average of one person every day. If you commit workers’ comp fraud, we will shut you down. I am proud of the work and partnership between our fraud office and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office on this case.”
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said, “These partnerships and our joint operations are incredibly valuable as they are responsible for keeping our public safe."
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PSO) and CFO Patronis’ Bureau of Insurance Fraud along with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and the Pasco County Building Department conducted a joint sting operation that caught contractors agreeing to perform work without a license and without workers’ compensation insurance coverage. The 20 individuals were arrested for contracting without a license and failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
Individuals arrested included: Raul Guidicelli, Frederick John Kloster, Gary Allen Nickell Jr., Michael Anthony Anderson, Ronald Lee Weston Sr., Kenneth Ray Rodgers, Kevin Christopher Burtis, Richard Frank Bruns Jr., James Roberts Wood II, Joseph Martin, Richard Martin, Luis Alberto Medina, Robert Bruce Trottman, Harold “Chuck” Attebery II, Neil T. Myer, Daniel George Griffin, Charbel Tannous, Moshen H. Seuod, Mauricio Chicas and Dennis Disney Garlock.
If convicted, each individual faces up to 5 years in prison per count. To report suspected contractor fraud, call our Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or report online at MyFloridaCFO.com. People reporting fraud can remain anonymous.
CFO JIMMY PATRONIS SCAM ALERT:
Be on the Look Out for this Scam Artist
Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is searching for a scam artist defrauding local businesses and putting people in harm’s way by posing as a fire extinguisher dealer. Pictured above, the alleged criminal is believed to be using the alias Hector Gonzalez.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "This kind of fraud not only scams businesses out of money, but it puts Floridians in major danger. If fire extinguisher equipment is not properly inspected and even tampered with, it could cause property damage and loss of life. This criminal must be found and we need your help to find him."
CFO Patronis’ Division of Investigative & Forensic Services and Bureau of Fire Prevention investigators are looking for the whereabouts of this individual who poses as a fire extinguisher dealer and uses this tactic to gain access to local businesses. Once inside, he "services" the fire extinguishers charging the business for the fraudulent and unlicensed work. Legitimate fire suppression equipment dealers are certified and carry company credentials. If anyone comes to your business claiming to be a fire suppression equipment dealer, ask them for proper identification before any work is performed.
If you have information or have been a victim of this individual please contact CFO Patronis' Bureau of Fire, Arson & Explosives Investigations at (954) 321-3704.
Oficial Principal de Finanzas Jimmy Patronis: Arresto de Propietario de un Centro Fraudulento de Tratamiento contra la Dependencia de Opiáceos por un Fraude de Seguros de $104,000 Destaca la Importancia de las Actividades Antifraude
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis announced the arrest of James Durkin, 39, owner of The Hope Center of Recovery, an opioid treatment facility located in Boynton Beach, Florida, for insurance fraud. Durkin was charged with two counts of organized scheme to defraud for allegedly submitting over $104,000 in fraudulent insurance billing.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, "As the opioid crisis continues to grip our nation, it’s unconscionable that anyone would use addiction treatment to make a quick buck. Insurance fraud at crooked addiction treatment centers fuels the ongoing opioid epidemic in Florida. Fraud like this takes away from the real work that legitimate opioid treatment homes are doing to help those who need it. Combating fraud at opioid treatment centers will remain one of my top priorities."
A joint investigation between CFO Patronis’ Division of Investigative & Forensic Services, Sober Home Task Force of Palm Beach County (SHTF), and the Boynton Beach Police Department (BBPD) revealed evidence that Durkin was falsifying billing information to Cigna and United Health Care for addiction recovery treatments. Treating physicians listed on billing documents were falsified in order to defraud the insurance companies into reimbursing the clinic for addiction treatment services that were never performed.
Durkin surrendered to insurance fraud detectives at the Palm Beach County Jail and faces up to 30 years in prison.
To report suspected fraud, call CFO Patronis’ Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or report online at MyFloridaCFO.com. People reporting fraud can remain anonymous.