Generally Speaking
  Publication of the Office of the Attorney General • Volume 7, Issue 7 • February 20, 2009

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Saving Florida Homeowners from Foreclosure Rescue Fraud

Throughout our state, Floridians are having to make tough choices about their finances, and often those decisions revolve around the state of their home mortgages. My office has seen a substantial increase in the number of scams based on offers to modify homeowners' loans or rescue them from impending foreclosures. Last year I worked with our Legislature to pass a new law protecting consumers from foreclosure rescue fraud, and my Mortgage Fraud Task Force has already sued several companies for allegedly collecting up front fees and not providing any promised services.

Preying on homeowners in a time of desperation is really one of the lowest things a con artist could do. Imagine a homeowner's frantic realization that the company he or she was working with to save his or her home was actually taking that homeowner's hard-earned money and allowing the mortgage to fall further behind in payments.

My office will continue to aggressively pursue companies and individuals who are targeting Florida's homeowners and trying to profit from their desperate situations.

CyberCrime Update

A Pensacola man has been taken into custody on charges he sexually solicited someone he thought was a minor and exposure himself over a webcam to that person. Robert Lee Brown was arrested by law enforcement with the Attorney General's CyberCrime Unit, Lake County Sheriff's Office and the Pensacola Police Department after he solicited an undercover detective with the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

A Bradenton man has been taken into custody on charges of child pornography possession. Roberto A. Manzanero was arrested by law enforcement officers with the Attorney General's CyberCrime Unit and the Bradenton Police Department.

A St. Johns County school employee has been taken into custody on charges that he sexually solicited a minor through an internet email account. William G. Turner was arrested by law enforcement officers with the Attorney General's CyberCrime Unit with assistance from the FBI, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
Consumer Protection

Attorney General McCollum announced his office has reached a $1 million settlement with a major mobile content marketer over allegations related to improper billing of mobile content. California-based companies New Motion, Inc. and Traffix, Inc., which jointly do business as Atrinsic, market mobile content for cell phones and operate as a nationwide advertising network in the mobile marketing industry. Today's agreement requires Atrinsic and its clients to comply with the Attorney General's industry-leading guidelines on specific disclosure of pricing and subscription terms in the online marketing of mobile content.

Attorney General McCollum opened a new Seniors vs. Crime Office in Sarasota as part of an ongoing effort to help residents avoid storm-related scams. The grand opening of Sarasota's Senior Friendship Center expands upon the Attorney General's Seniors vs. Crimes program which operates throughout the state. Seniors vs. Crime volunteers, often called "Senior Sleuths," will staff the facility to provide a place for potential victims to file a complaint, discuss their concerns with their peers and receive other assistance. The office will also conduct seminars on how seniors can protect themselves from becoming victims of crime.

Attorney General McCollum and Public Counsel J. R. Kelly filed a petition before the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) seeking a prohibition against all Florida telecommunication companies from placing unauthorized third-party charges on consumers' telephone bills. The charges are usually for products or services not requested, authorized, needed nor used by the consumer. The companies named in today's petition include Embarq, and Verizon, as well as BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., which does business as AT&T Florida and AT&T Southeast.

Attorney General McCollum encouraged Floridians and other consumers to monitor their credit statements to ensure their personal information is not compromised as a result of a data breach that impacted Wyndham Hotels & Resorts last year. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is the latest victim in a data breach that was caught and disabled but may have affected up to 21,000 Florida residents. Wyndham reported to the Attorney General's Office it contacted affected consumers in December and notified them that unauthorized access to Wyndham systems had potentially compromised the personal data on their debit and credit cards. At this time, Wyndham believes no criminal identity theft related to the use of the consumer data has been identified.
Criminal Proceedings

A Miami physician has been arrested for defrauding the Florida Medicaid program out of more than $75,000. Santos De La Paz was arrested today by law enforcement officers with the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Former owners of a Hialeah pharmacy were arrested for defrauding the Florida Medicaid program out of more than $1.6 million. Rolando Fraga and his wife, Mercedes Fraga, were arrested today by law enforcement officers with Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The two formerly owned and operated Excellent Care Pharmacy, Inc. in Hialeah.

Two Orlando Medicaid providers arrested for defrauding Florida's Medicaid Program out of more than $190,000. Tammy Scarborough and Kathy Marinelli were arrested today by law enforcement officers with the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Ocoee Police Department.
News Releases

Pensacola Man Arrested for Soliciting "Child" for Sex

Mobile Content Marketer Signs $1 Million Agreement with Florida

Bradenton Man Arrested for Possession of Child Pornography

Attorney General Opens New Seniors Vs. Crime Office in Sarasota

Miami Physician Arrested for Defrauding Medicaid Program Out of Over $75,000

Miami-Dade Pharmacy Owners Charged with Stealing $1.6 Million from Medicaid Program

Attorney General, Public Counsel File Joint Petition to Prohibit Phone Company Billing of Third-Party Charges

Two Orange County Health Care Providers Arrested for Defrauding Over $190,000 from Medicaid

St. Johns County School Employee Arrested for Soliciting a Minor

Attorney General, Wyndham Urge Victims of Data Breach to Closely Monitor Financial Accounts
Weekly News Items

Attorney General's Seniors vs Crime program and senior cybersafety outreach were featured in a story on ABC 7 in Sarasota. To see story, click here.