Lynn Haven’s former City Manager Michael White and former community services director David Horton were arrested and charged with conspiring with two businesses to bilk the federal government out of $5 million in Hurricane Michael cleanup money. Erosion Control Specialists owner David White and employee Shannon Rodriguez, and Greenleaf Lawn Care owner Joshua Anderson were arrested as well.
According to U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe, the former Lynn Haven officials approved false invoices from Erosion Control and Greenleaf for work they performed, including wrapping presents, preparing a site for a Halloween party, and cleaning the private homes of several city officials. The officials approved payments to the companies and then sought reimbursement from FEMA. The 35-count indictment includes charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, theft and honest services fraud.
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According to Insurance Business America, your auto insurance premiums are going up, all because of ongoing windshield-replacement schemes. As reported by Ryan Smith of Insurance Business America, these windshield schemes involve drivers with cracked windshields signing over insurance benefits to windshield repair and replacement shops. These shops, through an “assignment of benefits”, will then submit an inflated invoice for the work allegedly rendered.
The Tampa Bay area has become the hub of the fraud and abuse involving these schemes. More often then not, the fraudulent schemes are no fault of the insureds. Florida law states that a deductible cannot be applied to windshield replacement and repair services. This allows these shops to advertise that the work being done is “free” to the insureds. The result of these “free” services has led to over 1900 windshield-claim lawsuits in Florida in 2016 alone; increasing litigation costs and ultimately hitting everyone’s pocket.
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Casselberry, Florida residents are victims of windshield replacement scammers. As reported by News 6, a Casselberry resident recently told police that two men came to her door claiming to work for the state government, insisting that a new law had been enacted that requires Floridians to replace their windshields every six months. As a result, the residents become victims, often times being exposed to an increased risk of a cheap windshield popping out and breaking during an accident. In turn, the scammers will contact the victim’s auto insurer and submit an inflated invoice for a service that was not necessary or properly done; potentially resulting in an increase in the victim’s auto insurance premium.
An increased premium is not the only risk insureds face with these scams, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, insureds could face possible fines and, even worse, jail time. Making a repair claim for a windshield you know is undamaged could get you convicted of insurance fraud.
Red flags should go up if someone shows up at your door or chases you down in a parking lot offering to fix your windshield for free. If you believe your windshield has sustained damage and needs to be repaired or replaced, call your insurance company for a list of rebuttable windshield repair/replacement companies.
For more information regarding the windshield repair scams and what you can do to fight back, visit http://www.insurancefraud.org/scam-alerts-windshield.htm.
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As reported by Law360, in its efforts to have class certification denied, GEICO has asserted that VIP Auto Glass Inc. may lack standing to bring any claims against GEICO and maintain its lawsuit. “Since VIP actually has no valid assignment, it has no standing to bring any claims, much less any class claims. Class certification must be denied on this ground alone,” GEICO added, also noting that it reserves the right to seek sanctions or other appropriate remedies based on the alleged improper conduct.
According to the Complaint, VIP Auto Glass Inc. is seeking damages on behalf of GEICO policyholders, alleging that GEICO’s prices violate Florida laws and “have absolutely nothing to do” with the amount most shops charge for a windshield replacement. VIP Auto Glass has asked a federal court in Tampa to certify a class of similarly situated windshield repair facilities in the state that were hired to perform repairs by Florida GEICO policyholders, obtained an assignment of benefits and submitted bills for reimbursement, but did not receive full payment from the insurer. However, in its response opposing that motion, GEICO has advised the court that it has recently discovered that VIP’s repeated assertions that Mr. Jones assigned it his benefits have been false. GEICO says that Jones recently confirmed the forgery during a deposition and in a sworn affidavit, testifying that the signature and initials on the filed assignment of benefits are not his. In his affidavit, Jones also says that his first name is spelled Derryl, with two “Rs.”
GEICO has stated that the court’s analysis should end with a finding that VIP lacks standing, but also argues that class certification should be denied because class members cannot be easily ascertained since each proposed member’s assignment of benefits would have to be verified through individual factual inquiries.
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