My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

CFO and VeteranI have lived in a military community all my life. Panama City is home to Tyndall Air Force Base and thousands of dedicated military members and their families call the area home. The community proudly welcomes our armed forces, as do communities across Florida, from Pensacola and Mary Esther down to Starke and Miami Beach. There is no question why Florida is widely known as the most military and veteran friendly state in the nation!

While service members may have started their life in Florida after being CFO and Veteransstationed here, millions choose to stay once they’ve completed their service to our country and transitioned into civilian careers. More than 1.5 million veterans choose to call Florida home – 12 percent of our total population. These driven men and women display an exceptional level of discipline and do not accept mediocrity or defeat under any conditions. The skills they carry from the service make clear why the United States Small Business Administration believe that veterans are 45 percent more likely than civilians to become successful business owners.

Veterans medalsThey’ve laid their lives on the line to protect and defend our nation, and for their fearless bravery, all Americans owe each of them our unending gratitude. It’s no easy choice to sign up for military service, knowing that you may be sent into war-torn nations and that you will likely spend months on end away from your family and friends, and yet our veterans willingly made the choice to serve. As Veterans Day nears, I hope you’ll join me in recognizing veterans’ lasting impact and show your support for their service!

This week, I spent time with the veterans who work within our Department of Financial Services right here in Tallahassee. We shared a meal and many stories together, and Governor Scott granted each of them a Veteran’s Service Award. I look forward to soon doing the same in cities across our state. I hoped to express my personal thanks for their work with our agency, and for their continued service to our great state. DFS Veterans

If you have the upcoming holiday off from work, take a moment to remember the real reason why. Our freedom isn’t free – blood, sweat and tears were poured into securing the freedom we know today – and we must never take it for granted. Thank You for Your Service

Thank you to those who have served or who are currently serving, and thank you to your families as well. Military service is a full family commitment, and I know I join the 20 million people of our great state in saying that we appreciate the sacrifices you make each day, too.

Sincerely,

Jimmy Patronis
Jimmy Patronis
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


News of Interest

Insurance Journal: Florida Construction Company Owner Arrested for $1M Workers' Comp Scam
The owner of a Florida construction company has been arrested for allegedly obtaining a fraudulent workers’ compensation policy by underreporting the number of staff he employed, the company’s annual payroll amount and the company’s scope of work. According to a statement from Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and the Department of Financial Services (DFS) Carlos Contreras, owner of DJC Builders & Construction was arrested last month after providing false information on his insurance application and illegally avoiding paying more than $ million in premium payments for an adequate policy.

WUSF News: EMT Working Group Discusses Balance Billing, Ambulance Costs
Complaints from Floridians hit with surprise bills after a ride in an ambulance have the state’s insurance consumer advocate looking for answers. First responders are pointing at insurers. Balance billing allows emergency service providers to bill patients if their insurance doesn’t fully cover the cost of treatment. Stuart Fire chief David Dyal says ambulance services are expensive -- but not unreasonable.

Gainesville Business Report: Florida ranks #4 on Kiplinger’s list of Most Tax-Friendly States
Kiplinger has released its highly anticipated rankings of the best and worst states for taxes. The list was unveiled as part of Kiplinger’s fifth annual Tax Map which reveals income taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, “sin” taxes (for products such as alcohol and tobacco) and other tax rules and exemptions across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. "As Congress mulls a new federal tax plan that may cut rates and eliminate deductions, Americans should also keep an eye on state and local taxes," said Robert Long, Managing Editor at kiplinger.com.

Leesburg Daily Commercial: What’s the biggest lesson learned from Irma?
There will be a lot of lessons learned from Hurricane Irma but none more valuable to homeowners than the insurance coverage on their home. Many homeowners are getting a rude awakening that the loss cost insurance they purchased has many flaws and, in some cases, the question homeowners are asking is, "Why do I even have insurance coverage?"

Orlando Sentinel: Florida wants more international tourists
Florida is promoting new travel deals to bring in more Canadian tourists. Visit Florida highlighted several travel promotions, which include the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye and DoubleTree Orlando at SeaWorld. The travel deals come as the number of tourists from Canada - Florida’s top international market - has declined in recent years and the latest promotion "directly addresses concerns from Canadian families regarding the current exchange rate between the U.S. and Canada,” a news release said Wednesday. "Canada is so important to Florida’s tourism industry and the 1.4 million jobs it supports for families across our state," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. "We will keep working every day to attract 120 million visitors this year and make Florida the number one global destination."

NewsUSA: Florida Invests In Seaports, State Is Key Player in Global Marketplace
Summer may be over, but Florida's economy isn't cooling down. So much so that start-ups and businesses are flocking to the Sunshine State because of its strategic geographic locations, state-of-the-art infrastructures, multilingual workforces, and concentrations of corporate and financial resources. That's according to Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership between Florida's business and government leaders and the principal economic development organization for the state. Other reasons for the influx of businesses to the state include taking advantage of the younger talent moving to the area, no state income taxes, and promotions to reduce the property tax. Also the much lower cost of living. And to make Florida even more attractive for U.S. and international businesses, the state has also invested billions in upgrading and expanding its seaports in recent years.

CFO Patronis Sponsors Resolution to Raise Awareness for Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

Type 2 Diabetes AwarenessAt Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis sponsored a resolution raising awareness for type 2 diabetes as a potentially life-changing medical condition. An estimated 29 million Americans have diabetes, a chronic condition that considerably raises an individual’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease. A recent study indicates that while diabetes necessitates strict monitoring of personal health, 52 percent of adults who have it are not aware of the additional heart health risks. State Representative Gayle Harrell, who co-sponsored a legislative resolution with Senator Kelli Stargel, and Lisa Dwyer, who works in the pharmaceutical field, joined CFO Patronis for the Cabinet resolution presentation.

CFO Patronis said, "Floridians who have more information about their health make better, more informed health decisions. I thank Senator Stargel and Representative Harrell for joining me in raising awareness about two potentially life-threatening diseases. I hope this resolution serves as a reminder that Floridians should closely monitor their personal health and the health of their families. It’s important to see a doctor regularly and to speak up as any health concerns arise."

To view the resolution, click here.

CFO Patronis' KidCare VideoCFO Patronis on Health Care Coverage for Florida Children

If you want health care coverage for your kids but you’re wondering how to pay for it, Florida KidCare can help. KidCare offers quality, affordable health and dental insurance for kids. From birth through the end of age 18, Florida’s children can get head-to-toe coverage, even if one or both parents are working.

Learn more and apply at www.floridakidcare.org/.

Florida Insurance Fraud Detective Earns Medal of Heroism for Irma Rescue

awardedIinsurance fraud detective Barry Lewis gets the Medal of HeroismDuring Tuesday’s meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Governor Rick Scott awarded insurance fraud detective Barry Lewis with the Medal of Heroism for his role in a joint rescue during Hurricane Irma. The Department of Financial Services’ (DFS) Detective Lewis, alongside the Florida Highway Patrol’s (FHP) Corporal John Schultz and Sergeant David Contessa, waded into rising flood waters in Fort Myers to rescue FHP Lieutenant Greg Bueno and his parents when the roof of their house collapsed as Hurricane Irma pummeled Southwest Florida.

CFO Patronis said, "These men didn’t think twice before launching into action when they received their colleague’s call for help. Without blinking, they did what they do best - rush to offer a helping hand to a fellow Floridian. In the heart of a hurricane, they walked through flood waters in the dead of night to perform this rescue, making them all heroes in my book. I’m proud to see one of our own recognized today, and I’m grateful to live in a state full of heroes like Detective Barry Lewis, Corporal John Schultz and Sergeant David Contessa."The Department of Financial Services’  Detective Lewis, and the Florida Highway Patrol’s  Corporal John Schultz and Sergeant David Contessa with the Governor and Cabinet

DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes said, "I am extremely proud and forever grateful for FHP Corporal John Schultz and Investigator Barry Lewis, who heroically rescued one of our own Florida Highway Patrol troopers and his family. These heroes answered the call for help in the midst of a hurricane, setting aside their own personal safety, and Florida is a better, safer place because of them."

On September 10, FHP Lieutenant Greg Bueno took shelter from Hurricane Irma at his lakefront Fort Myers home. He was joined by his parents and a family pet. During the eye of the storm, a large section of the home’s roof collapsed, allowing rain to pour in. The waterfront property was already at great risk as the overflowing lake had flooded the area and trapped the family inside. Lt. Bueno attempted to call for help, but poor signal prevented a clear call, and he hung up unsure whether anyone had heard his plea for assistance.

While uncertain of the exact situation, Corporal John Schultz and Detective Barry Lewis knew the lieutenant needed immediate assistance and left the Lee County Emergency Operations Center to offer aid. The two arrived at the entrance of the neighborhood, which was unpassable by car, so they proceeded to the home on foot. Corporal Schultz and Detective Lewis arrived at Lt. Bueno’s home shortly before FHP Sergeant David Contessa, who arrived with a towing company to transport the group to safer ground. The family was unharmed and spent the night at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center.

Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida as a category 3 storm. More than 800,000 Irma-related insurance claims have been filed, and damage estimates currently exceed $5.5 billion.

$1 Million Work Comp Scam Leads to Arrest of Construction Company Owner

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and the Department of Financial Services (DFS) on FridayWorkers' Comp System Guide announced the recent arrest of Carlos Contreras, owner of DJC Builders & Construction. Contreras allegedly obtained a fraudulent workers’ compensation policy by underreporting the number of staff he employed, the company’s annual payroll amount and the company’s scope of work. By providing false information on the application, Contreras illegally avoided paying more than $1,000,000 in premium payments for an adequate policy.

CFO Patronis said, "When companies lie to obtain cheaper, inadequate workers’ compensation policies, staff or property owners are left vulnerable to covering sky-high medical costs if a worker gets injured on the job, and free markets are disrupted by scammers who can underbid their legitimate competitors. It’s a lose-lose situation for Florida, and I won’t stand for it."

Contreras claimed his company’s annual payroll was $273,786, and thus was quoted an annual workers’ compensation policy premium of $25,311. However, between January and August 2017, DFS investigators determined that Contreras cashed at least 620 payroll checks for DJC Builders & Construction. In total, nearly $6,500,000 in payroll was cashed using various money service businesses located across the state. If Contreras had accurately reported the company’s total payroll, number of employees and correct work description, the company’s proper workers’ compensation premium would have been $1,217,161.

As a result of the scam, Contreras’ insurance company was defrauded of more than $1,000,000.

Contreras was arrested on October 19 and transported to the Duval County jail. He has been charged with one count of knowingly concealing payroll and one count of scheme to defraud.

The case will be prosecuted by the Duval County State Attorney’s Office and if convicted, Contreras could face up to 60 years in prison.

Florida Economic Briefs

National unemployment rate drops
Unemployment in the US dropped to 4.1 percent in October, down by 0.1 percent over the previous month. This is the lowest the rate has been since December 2000.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Taxable sales increase
Taxable sales in the state increased by 2.7 percent in August over the previous year. The biggest contributors were in tourism & recreation, building investment, and business investment.
Source: Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research