The owners of a business that loaned McClenny Moseley & Associates $3 million to find clients with hurricane-damaged homes and earn fees by submitting damage estimates to insurers has embarked on a new venture: Transporting unauthorized aliens out of Florida.
The Florida Division of Emergency Services has decided to award a contract for its Migrant Transportation Program to ARS Global Emergency Management and two other vendors. The company will continue a controversial program launched by Gov. Ron DeSantis; transporting migrants who volunteer to be relocated to other states and arrange for social services when they arrive at their new homes.
ARS Global Emergency Management has the same directors, manager and Conroe, Texas address as Access Restoration Services, a company that filed a lawsuit against McClenny Moseley after the disgraced law firm allegedly reneged on a $3 million loan that was supposed to generate millions in profits. ARS claims MMA also owes it nearly $10 million for estimates it provided for its lawsuits.
Seventeen former estimators for ARS filed their own lawsuit against ARS this month, alleging that they were not paid overtime wages or promised bonuses after MMA’s plan to file thousands of hurricane-damage lawsuits collapsed because of intervention by federal judges. The estimators’ lawsuit names as defendants Guiseppe Gagliano, co-owner and director of ARS; and Nathan Normoyle, vice president of operations for ARS.
Florida’s decision to hire ARS and the other vendors for the Migrant Relocation Program was widely reported earlier thismonth, but the vendor’s connection to hurricane claims was not noted publicly until New Orleans insurance defense attorney Matthew Monson posted a comment on his LinkedIn page on Tuesday. It was Monson’s complaints about MMA’s tactics that prompted US District Court judges to order a halt to the law firm’s mass lawsuit filings.
Earlier his month, Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon fined MMA and three of its partners $2 million for the “illegal insurance scheme.”
“I wonder if anyone in the DeSantis administration knew of these allegations or developments when they decided to award this contract,” Monson said in his LinkedIn post.
The Claims Journal emailed that question directly to the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Wednesday. The division promised to look into the matter but had not yet responded late Wednesday.
Gov. DeSantis transported about 50 unauthorized migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts last September. After critics launched legal challenges, the Florida state legislature transferred the Migrant Relocation Program from the Department of Transportation to the Division of Emergency Management, according to the Miami Herald. Lawmakers appropriated $12 million to the program, which follows a $10 million appropriation made in February.
The Emergency Management Division announced that it selected three vendors for the relocation program on May 8. In addition to ARS, GardaWorld Federal Services and Vertol Systems Co. were selected to arrange transportation.
The state’s request for proposals provides few details, but answers to vendors’ questions that are posted online show that the state expects the vendors to “identify” the unauthorized migrants who want to be transported out of Florida, provide either air or ground transportation and then arrange for unspecified “social services” when the migrants arrive at their destinations.
On its webpage, ARS Global Emergency Services says that it is hopes to build on a “well-earned ethical reputation” and promises to report any “unethical, dishonest, illegal or criminal activities.”
“At ARS we believe good ethics is good business,” the website says.
The field inspectors’ lawsuit suggests just the opposite. The civil complaint, filed with the US District Court in Houston, calls the $3 million loan “suspicious” because ARS stated in its lawsuit against MMA that it had been promised a $15 million to $17 million return on its investment.
“Upon information and belief, it appears that ARS was likely using what were in fact inflated in-house property damage estimates for MMA cases to increase the claim values in those cases,” the field inspectors’ lawsuit says.
Monson said in a telephone interview that ARS’s connection to MMA should give Florida regulators pause. He noted that the estimators’ lawsuit was filed after the Emergency Management Division announced that it intended to award a contract to ARS.
“Would this contract have been awarded to the ARS family of companies if they were aware of the allegations in this lawsuit?” he asked.
Moseley says he has no ill will toward DeSantis. In fact, he said, “I’ll probably end up voting for the guy if I have the opportunity.”
Top photo: Carlos Munoz reaches out to hug Larkin Stallings of Vineyard Haven, Mass., as the immigrants prepare to leave St. Andrews in Edgartown, Mass., Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took the playbook of a fellow Republican, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, to a new level by catching officials flat-footed in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., with two planeloads of Venezuelan migrants. The migrants were being moved voluntarily to a military base on nearby Cape Cod, Mass. (Ron Schloerb/Cape Cod Times via AP)
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