Homeowner Insurance Fraud in Florida

19 May

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has brought charges against nine people who allegedly organized a homeowners insurance scam. The yearlong investigation found numerous false and exacerbated water damage claims that cost insurance companies over $600,000. 

The arrests were made after a yearlong investigation named “Operation Rubicon.” The investigation included fraud detectives with the Florida Department of Financial Services, the Miami-Dade Police Department and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office.

The investigation was started after numerous insurance companies notified authorities of suspected fraudulent insurance claims in the South Florida and Tampa areas. The detectives in the case claim that The Rubicon Group, which is a public adjusting company owned by Barbara Maria Gonzalez, is responsible for committing organized fraud and grand theft.

According to recent news reports, public insurance adjuster Barbara Maria Diaz de Villegas ran the scam with her father Jose Gonzalez who is also a public insurance adjuster. A public adjuster helps homeowners appraise and negotiate claims with an insurance company and they typically get a percentage of the settlement as payment. 

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle claims that the father-daughter team generated over $2.5 million in phony claims by using friends and other referrals. They employed a plumber to create damage at the properties and then filed less than honest insurance claims.

“He’d (the plumber) take a hammer, he’d break some tile, so that the coverage would be for the whole flooring, let’s say, in the house,” Fernandez Rundle said in a recent Daily Business Review article. “He would break water pipes to make it look like there was a flood, and he actually put the water there as well, to make it appear as if the broken pipe created the flood in the house.”

These types of scams push up the cost of coverage for all homeowners in Florida, costing the average Sunshine State resident up to $700 according to Fernandez Rundle.

A Serious Crime

The alleged organizers of the scam has been charged with Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, violations, conspiracy to commit RICO, filing false insurance claims and grand theft. The prosecutors are asking for a $500,000 bond and if the defendants are convicted, they could face up to 30 years in prison. 

The people arrested so far include:

  • Barbara Maria Gonzalez
  • Rafael Exposito
  • Rigoberto Lopez
  • Ricardo Alvarez
  • Jose Gonzalez
  • Romy Valdespino Rodriguez
  • Alessandra Kruger
  • Alicia Pardey
  • Ricardo Tello

In addition to the people already charged, Rundle said that 26 homeowners have been identified as participating in the scam and they could be arrested in the coming days or weeks. They will all face RICO charges that could result in up to 30 years behind bars. 

Patronis said the Department of Financial Services will be expanding its insurance fraud investigative efforts to help detect fraud and protect Florida as part of the Fraud Free Florida initiative.

Tags: , , , ,