NU Online News Service, March 10, 1:48 p.m. EST
Within the last two weeks Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has announced the arrests of two public adjusters as lawmakers prepare to consider a vast property insurance reform bill with provisions that address the practices of public adjusters.
Mr. Atwater said public adjuster Erasmo Zorilla has been charged with attempting to defraud North Pointe Casualty Insurance Company out of about $2.5 million.
Mr. Zorilla, who worked for Five Star Claims Adjusting Company, allegedly told authorities he conducted a roof inspection of buildings at the Country Club of Miami after Hurricane Wilma by standing outside of his car. Then he told North Pointe all of the roofs of the country club needed to be replaced because the roofing tiles could not be found in order to do the repairs in spots.
Investigators found that the roofing tiles were readily available, Mr. Atwater said.
Mr. Zorilla was arrested and charged with first degree grand theft and insurance fraud.
At the start of March, Mr. Atwater said former public adjuster Abraham M. Blumberg was arrested and charged with allegedly pocketing more than $360,000 from 82 clients in order to pay his own personal debts.
From May 2009 through June 2010 Mr. Blumberg, chief executive of National Loss Consulatants in North Miami Beach, took $363,617 in clients’ funds and allegedly used them to cover gambling and drug debts for employees and a family member, Mr. Atwater said.
Mr. Blumberg pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to about a year in jail, 30 years probation. Mr. Blumberg must pay full restitution plus $10,000 to the state Department of Financial Services (DFS). If he pays restitution, Mr. Blumberg’s sentence can be adjusted, Mr. Atwater said.
Due to reports of abuse by public adjusters in Florida, language in a large insurance reform bill (SB 408) to be considered this legislative session contains revisions to the regulation of public adjusters.
The arrests were made after investigations by Atwater’s Property and Casualty Insurance Fraud Task Force.
David Beasley, president of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA), said the group worked with lawmakers last year to draft provisions in a similar measure related to public adjusters, in order to improve the ethical standards of the profession.
SB 408 places limits on public adjuster compensation, prohibits certain language in advertising, and revises the public adjuster contract.