Attorney General Bondi's Weekly Briefing
It’s the spring break vacation season, and travelers need to beware of emerging scams targeting tourists. In an effort to spread the word to people traveling to Florida, I went on national television to warn all travelers about vacation rental scams. My office has received dozens of complaints about scammers hijacking legitimate rental ads online and changing the contact information in an effort to steal deposits. Florida is a top vacation destination, with more than 100 million visitors last year alone, making our state a favorite target for these types of scams.
To watch the full segment, click here.
There are a few precautions travelers can take to protect themselves from vacation rental scams:
Before you book your next vacation, please make sure to educate yourself about emerging travel scams. If anyone is suspicious of a scam or fraud, please contact my office immediately by calling 1 (866) 9-NO-SCAM or visiting MyFloridaLegal.com.
- Know that a deal seeming too good to be true, probably is. Rentals priced far below the market rate may be scammers looking to defraud as many people as possible;
- Talk to the property managers on the phone and ask them to send additional pictures of the property. Scammers may not be able to produce new pictures; and
- Never wire money for a deposit or give out financial information in response to a suspicious online rental ad. Legitimate property managers will have a billing department or will be equipped to accept a check to hold a reservation.
Agreement Reached with Legal Publishing Company
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office announced an agreement with Juris Publishing, Inc. and Jurisnet, LLC regarding the legal publishing companies’ use of negative option marketing in advertising, selling and distributing print, electronic and CD publications. The assurance of voluntary compliance resolves allegations that the companies placed consumers in automatic shipment and automatic subscription renewal plans without consumer consent or without clearly and conspicuously disclosing the terms of these plans. More.
Florida Woman Recruiting Homeless to Pose as Patients Must Forfeit More Than $170,000 Related to Medicaid Fraud
Attorney General Pam Bondi's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit announced more than $170,000 in fraudulent taxpayer dollars reclaimed from multiple bank accounts owned by Christina Benson, owner of Tranquility Health Care Solutions in Orlando. Benson used Tranquility to recruit homeless men and women to pose as patients and billed Medicaid for services not provided and not warranted. Additionally, Benson allegedly used untrained personnel, some with criminal arrest records, in her scheme. More.
UPDATE: Seventh Suspect Arrested in Medicaid Fraud Case
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, with the assistance of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, arrested the seventh suspect in connection to a Medicaid fraud case. The Orange County resident, Brenda Thompson, allegedly defrauded the Florida Medicaid Program out of more than $34,000. Thompson, 62, is a former employee of DS Connections, Inc., a targeted case management company headquartered in Winter Park and with offices in Clermont and Tallahassee. More.
Leader of Criminal Organization Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution announced the sentencing of Stephen Vincent Barone, 49, to 10 years in prison, followed by 20 years probation, for multiple charges related to a criminal organization Barone led.
An investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office’s Financial Crimes Task Force revealed that Barone led a criminal organization obtaining personal information from JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo accountholders through email solicitation. Using these victims’ personal information, those involved in the organization ordered replacement debit cards and mailed themselves the fraudulent cards at multiple addresses in central Florida. More.
Attorney General Bondi Thanks Governor Scott for Signing Bill Related Dozier School
Attorney General Pam Bondi thanked Governor Rick Scott for signing legislation that will aid families of those whose remains were found at Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys:
“I want to thank Governor Rick Scott for signing this bill that will help the families of those whose remains were recovered from the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys pay for funeral expenses. This will hopefully help bring some closure to the families whose loved ones lost their lives at Dozier.”
Attorney General Bondi Announces $75 Million Settlement in Historic Joint Action by the FTC, State Enforcers and Charity Regulators
Attorney General Pam Bondi, 49 other states, the District of Columbia and the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with two nationwide sham cancer charities, Cancer Fund of America, Inc. and Cancer Support Services, Inc., and the charities’ president, James Reynolds, Sr. The settlement resolves allegations that the majority of charitable donations falsely solicited by the organizations to help cancer patients was spent instead on the charities’ operators, their families, friends and fundraisers. The final court order approving the settlement dissolves the charities and bans Reynolds from profiting from any future charity fundraising. More.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Pam Bondi joined Governor Rick Scott and fellow Cabinet members, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, for a meeting of the Florida Cabinet in Tallahassee.
Attorney General Pam Bondi assisting Governor Rick Scott award the Medal of Heroism to three law enforcement officers for their courageous actions. Indian River Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Sunkel and Deputy Linda Nolan received the Medal of Heroism for rescuing a woman last week from a burning car after a dangerous collision. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer David Brady received the Medal of Heroism for his quick actions last summer in a dangerous situation on a boat off the coast of Panama City.
Attorney General Bondi introducing Patty, a nine-year old beagle and hound mix, at the Florida Cabinet meeting. For more information on Patty and other rescue animals in the Tallahassee area, visit TalGov.com/Animals.
Secretary of State of Florida, Ken Detzner, recently appointed Carol Bryant-Martin, a paralegal in the Florida Attorney General’s Antitrust Division, to serve on the Board of Directors for a new statewide citizen support organization, Friends of Florida History. Friends of Florida History board members will assist the Department of State in supporting a range of diverse properties and community programs in Florida including Mission San Luis, The Grove, Miami Circle, Main Street Florida, Preservation 50 and the Florida Folklife Festival. Bryant-Martin will serve on the executive committee for FFH as the Secretary alongside Senator Curt Kiser, Chair of Friends of Florida History, and General Bob Milligan as Treasurer.
Bryant-Martin has been an employee of the Department of Legal Affairs since 2005 and has served three terms as an appointed board member for the Friends of Mission San Luis and multiple terms on the statewide board for Florida Guardian ad Litem. Attorney General Bondi congratulates Bryant-Martin on her appointment and thanks her for her many years of public service.