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Alleged scammers burn Miami-Dade fire department from within

By   /   April 18, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — South Florida is no stranger to insurance fraud.


BURNT: Miami-Dade fire department employees busted for fraud.

But a recently exposed scam involving public workers is sure to leave taxpayers seething and give Miami-Dade’s bravest a black eye.

Anthony Dorta, a fire inspector with the county’s Fire Rescue Department was arrested last week, accused of submitting a bogus insurance claim.

While claiming he couldn’t work due to a knee injury suffered on the job, Dorta raked in $143,000 in benefits.

But according to a county inspector general’s memo, Dorta also was painting houses and repairing interior walls, and was observed painting the floor of a warehouse by another fire department employee who was conducting an inspection.

James Quiggle, communications director for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit alliance of insurance companies, consumer groups and government agencies, told Watchdog.org the case is not surprising.

“South Florida is one of the nation’s epicenters for insurance fraud,” Quiggle said.

“It’s not unusual for public employees to succumb to the lure of easy money through workers compensation scams. These are a distinct minority among public employees who tend to be very ethical. That said, I no longer blink when I read a news story about another firefighter or policeman who stands accused of fraud and takes a paid vacation courtesy of their employer.”

Officials discovered what would otherwise pass as an isolated one-off while investigating another fire department employee, Jeffrey Lowman.

Lowman, a code enforcement officer, was running a private fire inspection consulting business registered to his home, in addition to his job with the county fire department.

According to a separate IG memo, Lowman’s side business was hired by a property management company to help resolve outstanding code violations. He then filed 10 fraudulent affidavits with the county while hiding his identity from the collections office.

“Lowman’s fraudulent affidavits removed a combined $40,000 in accrued penalties owed the county,” the memorandum states.

“The county does allow for outside employment,” a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Office of the Inspector General told Watchdog.org. “The employee must make a request and it could be approved as long as it doesn’t conflict with county employment.”

The IG’s office couldn’t say whether Lowman’s fire inspection consulting business was approved.

A joint county-state investigation found Dorta was Lowman’s “handyman” assistant for yet another side business for which Lowman paid Dorta directly.

“Every new corruption case should throw additional ripples of fear and concern through those public employees who think they can get away with this type of crime,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates American families pay about $950 a year because of insurance fraud.

“Insurance fraud extracts (money) from an unfortunately large number of victims who play by the rules,” Quiggle said.

Contact William Patrick at [email protected]


William Patrick is Watchdog.org’s Florida reporter. His work has been featured by Fox News, the Drudge Report, and Townhall.com, as well as other national news and opinion websites. He’s also been cited and reposted by numerous state news organizations, including Florida Trend, Sunshine State News and the Miami Herald, and is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Florida Press Association. William’s work has impacted discussions on education, privacy, criminal justice reform, and government and corporate accountability. Prior to joining Watchdog, William worked for the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Fla. There, he launched a legislative news website covering state economic issues. After leaving New York City in 2010, William worked for the Florida Attorney General’s Office where he assisted state attorneys general in prosecuting Medicaid Fraud. William graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College, City University of New York. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife and three young children.