On Wednesday, May 20, 2015, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced the arrests of 31 individuals, “charged with bilking insurance companies out of more than $7 million by intentionally setting fires and causing floods in homes across the state.”1 Everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and Miami has more than its share of arrests with media announcements only to be followed by charges being dropped and deafening silence by the media, as we reported in The Rest of the Story Following Allegations and The Arrest For Insurance Fraud.
A large collaborative effort from state and local agencies, entitled “Operative Flames and Flood II,” focused on alleged “Kingpin,” Jorge Fausto Espinosa, Sr., owner of Nationwide Adjusters, LLC. Espinosa, “is charged with deliberately staging fire and water damage claims to residential homes in Miami-Dade County, Lehigh Acres and Naples.”2
Espinosa is also already facing charges stemming from “Operation Flames and Flood I,” which involved thirteen homes damaged by fire, with an additional five homes reporting extensive water damage. The second part of the operation “involved 20 staged fires, one in which a firefighter sustained an injury. Losses in case two are closer to the $7 million mark.”3
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle stated, “[i]n this fraud, public adjuster Jorge Fausto Espinosa would be hired by policy holders to seriously damage the insured homes for one purpose only: to collect ill-gotten gains from insurance companies.”4 Among the others arrested were several homeowners who had been recruited by employees of Espinosa, who where “willing to allow him to set fires or flood their homes.”5 Several of Espinosa’s recruiters were also arrested.
After the first operation, Espinosa was “charged with racketeering, grand theft, arson and forgery. If convicted, he would serve more than 30 years in federal prison.”6 Following the second round of the investigation, Espinosa is “now fac[ing] additional charges of racketeering, arson and grand theft.”7
Like any industry you’re going to find some bad apples occasionally, but one bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch. Having worked in the first-party claims industry for some time now, I’ve found that the overwhelming majority of individuals I’ve met and worked with have been honest, hardworking, and considerate folks who genuinely care about helping their clients. Keep in mind we’re only hearing one side of the story at this point.