WPTV has brought you a series of stories about the rising costs of property insurance that many Florida residents are calling a crisis.
This has come with several arrests across the Sunshine State related to property insurance fraud a crime that continues to grow.
At a bond hearing on Oct. 31, Naser Hasan Al-Sweity, the owner of Florida P&C Insurance in Boca Raton, was arraigned on 23 embezzlement and fraud charges.
The charges ranged from misappropriation of insurance funds to fraudulent use of personal identification and organized scheme to defraud.
Similar charges were also brought against four Miami men who were accused of carrying out an insurance fraud scheme in September. Investigators said they attempted to defraud an elderly homeowner of $57,000 in insurance claims.
Also, a group of four people were arrested in Tampa in December in a roofing fraud scheme.
There was also one arrest in Lee County in December in a $214,000 fraud scheme.
“How big of a problem would you say this is in Florida?” WPTV reporter Jessica Bruno asked Stacey Giulianti, the co-founder of Florida Peninsula Insurance Company in Boca Raton
“Insurance fraud nationwide is a $300 billion a year annual problem,” Giulianti said. “That’s a huge amount of money and in Florida, it’s between $40-$50 billion.”
Giulianti said a lot of these bad actors tend to take advantage of communities that have been affected by a natural disaster, like a hurricane.
“One of the biggest ways are out of state, unlicensed contractors and repair personnel coming in, especially after a storm, and they take money upfront to do a job, and they don’t actually do the job,” Giulianti said. “They take the money, they disappear and they’re gone.”
As we start a new year, Giulianti offered some important reminders for homeowners.
“First of all, many insurance companies offer preferred contractors or preferred vendors and those people have been background checked, they’ve been checked out,” Giulianti said. “So if your insurance company offers something like that, utilize that service, it’s a great way to go.”
Residents can also look up the company’s licenses by going to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation website.
“Type in a name or company name and you’ll find out if they’re licensed in the state of Florida and if it’s an active license,” Giulianti said. “It’s gonna take everybody, customers, the state of Florida and the insurance companies working together to stop this type of fraud.”
The legislative session begins this week and several bills related to property insurance will be up for debate.
WPTV will be live at the state Capitol this week speaking with local lawmakers about the insurance crisis.