The Department of Financial Services has hired sworn law enforcement officers for the investigations.
The Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) has hired 13 new employees, 10 of whom are law enforcement officers who will be investigating property insurance fraud, said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
The state Legislature approved the investigation squads in 2020, and the hiring is now complete.
The insurance fraud investigators are based in Orlando and Tampa. They will be granted the authority to work with other law enforcement units as well as with the insurance industry in order to examine potentially fraudulent cases across the state. This, according to a DFS news release.
“I have directed these detectives to focus on significant cases involving organized schemes to defraud, multiple suspects or jurisdictions, contractor fraud, fictitious damage claims, inflated damage claims, and fraudulent water and roof damage claims,” said Patronis. He went on to explain that the goal is to help control the cost of coverage by reducing successful fraudulent activities by dubious contractors, assignment-of-benefits abuse, and other unscrupulous strategies.
The specifics of the funding and investigations by the insurance fraud team were not disclosed.
The DFS news release didn’t specify exactly how much funding would be directed toward the operation of the new investigation units. It also didn’t indicate exactly where the funding will come from. Moreover, the news release didn’t outline whether the newly hired investigators would be looking into alleged fraud by public claims adjusters.
Conflicts of interest with public adjusters and cooperation with a suspended attorney earlier in 2021 are among some of the concerns that have been raised in the industry. Earlier this year, an insurer voluntarily withdrew an investigation and little movement forward has occurred on another case.
The DFS fraud unit has made over 4,500 fraud- and arson-related arrests since 2017, according to Patronis. This has brought about over $170 million in court-ordered restitution. The property insurance fraud investigators will provide necessary support to help to recover further funds scammed out of insurers, which has led to increased costs for policyholders. The hope is that recovered funds will help to reduce the financial damage fraudsters are causing.