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Former Milton Car Dealer Charged with Organized Fraud

1/30/2003

MILTON – The owner of a former Milton automotive dealership was arrested Wednesday on charges of stealing more than $100,000 from his customers.

Investigators determined Michael E. Bratton, 47, owner of the now-defunct Michael Bratton Automotive in Milton, allegedly failed to pay off prior liens on trade-in vehicles and failed to secure extended warranties purchased by his customers. He is suspected of cheating more than 50 customers. Bratton was arrested in Lee County, Alabama, by the Lee County Sheriff's Department following an investigation by the Department of Financial Services' Division of Insurance Fraud and Bureau of Financial Investigations, under the Office of Financial Institutions and Securities Regulation. Assistance was also provided by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office.

Before investigators could complete their case, Bratton moved to Opelika, Ala., where he opened another car dealership. He was arrested on an outstanding Florida warrant and charged with organized fraud, a first-degree felony.

The case will be tried in Santa Rosa County by the State Attorney's Office in the First Judicial Circuit of Florida. If convicted on the charge, he could face up to 30 years in prison and as much as a $30,000 fine.

El Departamento de Servicios Financieros, División de Fraude de Seguros, investiga varias formas de fraude en seguros, incluyendo seguros de salud, de vida, de autos, de propiedad y de compensación por accidentes de trabajo. Cualquier persona con información acerca de este caso u otra posible confabulación de fraude debe llamar a la Línea de Ayuda al Consumidor del departamento de Fraude al 1-800-342-2762. Se ofrece una recompensa de hasta $25,000 a cambio de información que conduzca a una condena en casos de fraude de seguros.