Conducting insurance transactions without a Florida license landed agency owner Amada Ruz, 69, in jail this week. She was released the same day after posting a $4,500 bond.
Ruz was first arrested in August 2012 for selling a fake driver license. The insurance agency was also suspected of producing fake insurance cards and immigration documents. The Florida Division of Insurance Fraud filed a probable cause affidavit at the time. Ruz was released on $3,000 bond following the 2012 arrest.
The State revoked the insurance license of Ms. Ruz in April of this year, several months following her guilty plea on charges of unlawfully manufacturing identification cards.
An agent of the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud was conducting a routine follow up investigation in July 2013 when he found Ruz working at her insurance agency, Vizon Insurance, in Lake Worth. The agent warned Ruz that she was required to stop conducting insurance business.
One month later, in August, Ruz was again discovered to be conducting insurance business when the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud carried out another on-site visit.
Florida Division of Corporation records show Vizon Insurance as being active, although Ruz is not currently listed as an officer or director. The agency has been in business since 2007.
Five individuals from the Tampa Bay area are now facing criminal charges relating to a workers’ compensation insurance fraud scheme, following a lengthy investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud.
On July 25, 2013 Otto Biltres, owner of Preferred Staffing of America, Inc.; Charles Brown, a licensed insurance agent; and three other individuals were arrested and booked into the Pinellas County Jail for participating in an organized scheme to defraud and operating without an insurance license.
Biltres allegedly misrepresented Preferred Staffing of America, Inc. as a licensed professional employer organization (PEO) and provider of workers’ compensation insurance coverage. He defrauded clients of more than $130,000 by presenting false company credentials.
Florida licensed insurance agent Charles Brown allegedly assisted Biltres in the workers’ comp fraud scheme by referring companies to Preferred Staffing. In return, Biltres reportedly paid Brown a 45 percent commission. Brown is also accused of aiding Biltres in falsifying the certificates of insurance that Biltres gave to clients.
Kelly Bree Brown, wife of Charles Brown, also faces criminal charges. Ms. Brown and two other unlicensed insurance agents under the employ of Charles Brown are accused of directing client companies to Preferred Staffing in exchange for a commission fee.
The defendants could face up to 30 years in prison if they are convicted.
The Florida Department of Insurance Services rewards individuals who step forward with valid information that leads to arrests in an insurance fraud scheme. The department’s Anti-Fraud Reward Program has paid almost $275,000 to 40 individuals for help in uncovering insurance fraud.
Donovan Brown, state government relations counsel for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), recently issued a statement in response to the Office of Insurance Regulation’s (OIR) recent analysis of the Pinnacle Actuarial Resources, Inc. impact report on Florida’s new PIP law.
In the statement Brown emphasizes patience with the expected results of the new law.
PCI has ongoing concerns with the study’s conclusions and the fact that they are based on a law which does not fully take effect until next year. Although we commend Pinnacle for its diligent and thorough work, the study cannot anticipate changes to Florida’s legal, social or economic environment which will directly influence the impact of the new PIP law. The study also cannot calculate the scope of detrimental challenges to the new PIP law that will be filed by plaintiffs’ attorneys or the manner and extent to which corrupt providers will attempt to game the system. In addition, we note that the study cannot foresee the overall impact the PIP law may have on the Bodily Injury and Uninsured Motorist portions of drivers’ auto policies.
Therefore, in order for the new PIP law to achieve its potential, PCI encourages policymakers, regulators and Florida drivers to allow the law adequate time to take effect. PCI also urges policymakers to protect the law from any distortion that will negatively impact its ability to deter fraud and abuse in the PIP system. As with any comprehensive legislative package, there will be implementation processes and other issues that must be addressed in order for the PIP law to attempt to stabilize our auto insurance market.
The full press release is available here.