Arrests & warnings
The past two weeks have certainly provided overwhelming proof of the need for stronger insurance consumer protection reforms. Local and state authorities have been looking for unlicensed contractors, as well as public adjusters and roofing contractors not following the law or initiating cons when soliciting vulnerable homeowners in Ian’s hard-hit areas.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) alerted the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office to Duque Roofing, of Sugar Land, Texas having signed a contract with a local homeowner. Company owner Terence Duque was arrested for unlicensed contracting. Another contractor, Hector Mendez, was arrested for violating the emergency curfew. The Sheriff found a fully extraditable warrant on Mendez out of Louisiana for residential contractor fraud.
These and other schemers add insult to Ian’s injury, as outlined in Fraud News Weekly. In some cases, Florida residents are approached by door-to-door solicitations by phony charities or property insurance scams. The BBB’s office in Clearwater has already received hundreds of calls from homeowners warning about phony home-repair deals and other cons. In hard-hit Venice, contractor Eric Ziko of Orlando offered to repair an elderly person’s home for $47K. He demanded a 50% deposit check. Except Ziko isn’t licensed, officials say. Ziko’s jailed on fraud charges. “The police in Venice are driving around and they’re catching the bad guys and I hope they spend a lot of time in jail,” one resident says. And while most public adjusters are honest, far too many want to illegally cheat Florida homeowners. “The most disturbing thing was within half an hour of us just starting to clean up to get to our cars, we had 40, 50 public adjusters running through the neighborhood talking about how they could do our claims for us … they could handle it for us, it’s what they do,” Cape Coral homeowner Ron Scalzo told ABC News.
The Florida Department of Financial Services has deployed more than 40 fraud investigators to impacted areas and issued this Know Your Rights release to homeowners who may be considering working with public adjusters. It includes a television public service announcement by CFO Patronis, advising residents “we want every bit of these insurance checks that are being written to end up in your pocket.” Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, Tasha Carter is promoting again her “Don’t be a victim! Prevent Contractor Fraud & Abuse” webpage. Florida Emergency Management Chief Kevin Guthrie has been touting a new crisis cleanup line (1-800-451-1954) to residents to get free help with debris removal. He warned of contractors coming by and lying to homeowners by saying to pay them and FEMA will reimburse the homeowner. “Tell them to pack sand,” Guthrie advised.
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has been warning policyholders of fraud, too. Non-contracted drone vendors are going door-to-door offering homeowners to fly above their property and photograph the damage. Citizens has its own contracted drone service vendors for evaluating claims. Some policyholders are also being told incorrectly that they must pay boat rental costs to get Citizens adjusters to their properties. All adjusting costs are paid by Citizens.
LMA Newsletter of 10-24-22