My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Happy New Year 2018 from CFO PatronisIf I’ve had the chance to meet you, you may have heard me say "everyone is a customer." This mindset is what has guided me as a small business owner, and it now guides me as your CFO and State Fire Marshal.

Focusing on the needs of Florida residents and our small business owners is what has steered every action I’ve taken as CFO. This means protecting you from fraud, abusive business practices, and fighting against government overreach; cultivating economic growth and safeguarding financial stability; supporting and fighting for first responders; and nurturing a free and open society.

This past year was filled with new challenges and great opportunities. From helping you prepare for hurricane season and recovering from Hurricane Irma to returning unclaimed property through our outreach efforts, I’m proud to say that my office has been working nonstop for Floridians. I’m looking forward to continuing our great work and serving you in 2018.

Have a happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Jimmy Patronis
Jimmy Patronis
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


News of Interest

Palm Beach Post: Aflac, State Farm reach life insurance settlements

If you Scam Seniors, We’ll Throw you in JailInvestigative and Forensic Services Badge

Former New Jersey Insurance Agent Arrested in Florida for Stealing $100,000 from Senior Citizens in Annuity Fraud Scheme

CFO Jimmy Patronis announced Wednesday the recent arrest of Victor Rennols, an ex-appointed New Jersey insurance agent with Great American Insurance Group, who stole a total of $100,000 from three senior New Jersey residents by selling fake annuities. Rennols misrepresented himself as an appointed agent with Great American Insurance Group and would travel to Naples, Florida, where Rennols had family ties, to cash the victims’ monies.

CFO Patronis’ Bureau of Insurance Fraud (BIF) received a referral from the Great American Insurance Group regarding Rennols’ misrepresentation of himself as a current, employed insurance agent and his alleged sale of annuity accounts under their business name. As a result of BIF's investigation, it was discovered that Rennols received payment from three senior citizen victims, but kept the funds for personal use instead of opening the annuity accounts with Great American Insurance.

"I want to be clear: If you scam seniors, we will find you and we will arrest you," said CFO Jimmy Patronis. "My consumer services office works daily to protect seniors from being taken advantage of, and our law enforcement teams do everything possible to root out the criminals that prey on our most vulnerable consumers."

BIF investigators were able to confirm Rennols met with his first victim in January 2016 in New Jersey and advised that the elderly victim roll over $60,000 from her Allianz Life annuity and write a check payable to "Great American Life" in the same amount. The victim gave the check to Rennols under the promise that an annuity account would be setup. In return, Rennols presented the victim with fictitious documentation confirming the transaction and returned to Florida to deposit the funds into an account in his name. Rennols met with two other senior victims in August 2016 in New Jersey and engaged in a very similar scheme. Rennols sold the victims fake annuity products from Great American Insurance Group, this time requesting a check of $5,000 from one victim and $35,000 from the third victim, depositing those checks into the same account in Florida.

A Great American Insurance representative provided investigators an affidavit attesting to the facts that Rennols was no longer an appointed agent, did not have the authority to sell annuities representing their name and none of the three victims were provided annuities. Bank surveillance photographs were also obtained illustrating Rennols depositing the stolen funds, and later making large cash withdrawals from the same account.

A capias warrant for Victor Rennols was issued in April 2017 by the State Attorney's Office Economic Crimes Unit of Collier County. Rennols was charged with one count of scheme to defraud but Rennols was not able to be located in the Naples area and investigators believed that Rennols fled the area during this time.

During a traffic stop by Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) in Lee County on I-75 , FHP arrested Rennols on the outstanding warrant from Collier County. Rennols also had a warrant out of Virginia for similar alleged activity. Rennols is currently being held in Collier County Jail without bond and is also being investigated by authorities in New York, New Jersey and Virginia for similar criminal activity.

Investigators believe Rennols may have defrauded additional victims and encourage members of the community who have recently engaged in the purchase of annuity products from Victor Rennols to contact the Department of Financial Services’ Insurance Fraud Hotline by calling 1-800-378-0445.

State Fire Marshal BadgeSix Fire Safety Tips for New Year’s Eve

Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis urges Floridians to celebrate safely during upcoming New Year’s Eve celebrations. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks cause an annual average of three deaths and cost $43 million in direct property damage.

"Since 2014, Florida firefighters have responded to more than 50 fireworks-related incidents accounting for more than $1.5 million in property loss," said CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis. "It’s important to use precaution while celebrating on New Year’s Eve as fireworks can destroy property, cause serious burns and can pose a serious threat to the safety of our communities. Leave the fireworks shows to the professionals so you can avoid becoming a part of these devastating statistics."

Only approved sparklers and fireworks purchased for approved agricultural or industrial purposes are legal in Florida. Anyone who chooses to use fireworks or sparklers should follow these six safety tips.

  1. Only purchase sparklers from licensed vendors.
  2. Keep a fire extinguisher and water hose on hand, and a bucket of water available to fully extinguish used products.
  3. Never give fireworks to young children. Even sparklers can reach temperatures between 1,300 and 1,800 degrees, at least 200 degrees hotter than a standard butane lighter.
  4. Light only one item at a time and never attempt to re-light.
  5. Keep pets indoors and away from all fireworks.
  6. Never mix fireworks and alcohol.

Attend a public fireworks show instead. Public displays are sponsored by communities and organizations across Florida.

Floridians should not sign waivers to purchase fireworks that are illegal for personal use in Florida. Signing a waiver will not clear a consumer of responsibility if caught illegally using fireworks. Local law enforcement agencies are charged with the enforcement of Florida fireworks laws.

To learn more about fireworks enforcement, visit: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/division/sfm/BFP/FireworksandSparklerEnforcement.htm

For a complete list of Florida-approved sparklers your family can enjoy, please visit: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/division/sfm/BFP/ApprovedSparklerLists.htm

Florida Economic Briefs

Home prices increase
The median home price for existing single family homes rose almost $5,000 to $240,000 in November. Inventory remained low at only 3.8 months, matching October’s inventory levels.
Source: Florida Realtors Association

New construction slows
The number of permits issued for new residential construction decreased in November, dropping to 7,655. This represents a decrease of over 3,000 permits compared to October.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau