TALLAHASSEE - The State Fire Marshal's Office and the Miami-Dade Police Department's Arson Unit arrested 14 people, including some from Southwest Florida, accused in a scheme to defraud insurance companies by purposely setting their homes on fire.
"Operation Flames and Floods" began in November 2012, and exposed an extensive scheme to defraud the companies by staging fire and water damage claims to residential homes in Miami-Dade County, Lehigh Acres and Naples. The losses exceeded several million dollars, after 13 homes were set on fire and five more reported extensive water damage.
Public adjuster Jorge Fausto Espinosa Sr. was arrested prior to today during the operation’s initial phase as a result of a federal indictment. The remaining arrests occurred this morning and afternoon.
A second public adjustor and a plumber were also among the people arrested for allegedly instructing homeowners about how to file fraudulent insurance claims.
The 13 cases of arson were staged to resemble electrical, kitchen and vehicle-related fires occurring within the home or garage, while those involving water damage blamed flooding on water supply lines or clogged sewer lines.
Upon their arrest, the following individuals were transported to Miami-Dade County Jail:
· Jorge Fausto Espinosa Sr. (Public Adjustor)
· Carolina Esponosa (Public Adjustor)
· Roberto Suarez
· Pedro H. Lezcano, Sr.
· Argelio Menendez
· Jesus Martinez
· Lazaro Delgado
· Liset Corrales
· Francisco Pineiro-Gonzalez
· Daniel Perez
· Francisco Centurion
· Abel Gutierrez
· Daney Perez
· Ernesto O’Reilly
As a result of the fraud, the following insurance carriers paid out more than $7.6 million in reported losses: American Integrity Insurance Company, American Bankers Insurance Company, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, Northern Capital Insurance Company, Northern Point Insurance, Gulf Stream Property & Casualty, Southern Oak Insurance Company, State Farm, and Universal Property & Casualty. These cases are being prosecuted by Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
Anyone with information of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded nearly $350,000 as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.