Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced that an unlicensed adjuster seeking contracts with victims of Hurricane Charley was arrested on Sanibel Island. He also warned that the Department of Financial Services is investigating reports of other unlicensed adjusters working in storm-devastated communities in central and southwest Florida.
“It is unfortunate, but disasters bring out the best and the worst in people,” Gallagher said. “Storm victims must be sure that they are dealing with a legitimate adjuster and verify that by calling the department’s storm helpline.”
Gallagher, who was Florida’s Insurance Commissioner when Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, said he hopes that the quick and visible mobilization of department fraud investigators to storm-damaged communities will work as a deterrent to unlicensed activity.
Richard Viera, 36, of 7244 Swan Lake Dr., Ft Myers, was arrested Thursday afternoon on one count of operating without being licensed as a public adjuster. Viera was soliciting business for Public Insurance Adjusters, a Florida corporation with an address in Miami. He had recently relocated to the Ft. Myers area from Miami.
The department’s Bureau of Agent & Agency Investigations, working with the Division of Insurance Fraud and the Sanibel Police Department, initiated the investigation after receiving information from homeowners in the Iona Gardens area of Sanibel Island that they had received promotional fliers from Viera offering to help them file insurance claims. Viera allegedly admitted that he had negotiated other contracts in the area. Investigators are following up with those property owners.
Gallagher last week issued an emergency rule allowing claimants 14 days to back out of any contract with a public adjuster. He also capped public adjuster fees at 10 percent of any claim payment, and ordered that public adjusters cannot require any up-front payment.
Any policyholder who has a question about their insurance adjuster should call (800) 22-STORM.
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