A restoration contractor company owner has been arrested over an alleged assignment of benefits (AOB) fraud scheme that impacted 19 homeowners in eight Florida counties and one Texas county, according to a statement from Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis.
Timothy Matthew Cox, owner of Nationwide Catastrophe Services, Inc. and Restoration Response Services, Inc., is alleged to have stolen nearly $140,000 for home repairs related to damages from tropical weather events that he never provided. As a result of Cox’s alleged activity, the victims’ homes sustained additional damage from significant weather events, including Hurricane Irma, the statement said.
The Florida Bureau of Insurance Fraud, a division of the Florida Department of Financial Services, found that Cox and his team targeted Brevard, Clay, Escambia, Flagler, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties and Tarrant County, Texas.
These areas were impacted by tropical storms and hurricanes, and according to DFS, Cox is alleged to have pressured homeowners to sign an AOB contract to have damages repaired. Cox received $139,444.97 from the 19 victims and their insurance carriers.
After receiving the insurance payments, Cox’s team never started any of the work they were contracted to perform on the 19 homes, according to the statement. The payments made to Nationwide Catastrophe Services, Inc. and Restoration Response Services, Inc. were deposited into bank accounts controlled by Cox, who used the money for personal use, DFS said.
Cox was arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail June 5, 2018. He faces multiple counts of grand theft and racketeering and could face up to 30 years in jail. The case is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.
“Criminals who prey on Florida families after a hurricane or tropical storm are some of the worst we see. This type of fraud has skyrocketed and impacts all Florida consumers,” Patronis said.
He added that last year in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Florida’s Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team was created to go after this type of fraud.
“With more than 100 ongoing investigations statewide, we are coming for anyone who takes advantage of our residents during vulnerable times,” Patronis said.
When consumers sign an AOB they are granting their contractor or restoration specialist with the right to negotiate the insurance claim directly with their insurance carriers. This allows the contractor or restoration specialist to receive the consumer’s insurance benefits directly from the insurance carrier. Consumers who have experienced or witnessed this type of activity are encouraged to reach out to CFO Patronis’ Fraud Tip Hotline by calling 1-800-378-0445. Callers can choose to remain anonymous.
Source: Florida Department of Financial Services
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