Targeting cyber criminals attempting to defraud Floridians of what is rightfully theirs, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced last week the arrest of Thomas Harry Penquite and Maria Lourdes Gutierrez after the two allegedly concocted an elaborate scheme designed to steal more than $730,000 from the state of Florida’s unclaimed property program.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Penquite and Gutierrez devised a scheme to fraudulently collect unclaimed assets from at least three inactive Florida corporations. These corporations included Castle Construction & Development Co., Ditco Service Corp., and the Ferrer Network. By breathing new life into these inactive corporations, the fraudsters attempted to legitimately make claim to funds potentially owed them.
An investigation conducted by the Office of Fiscal Responsibility revealed that Penquite and Gutierrez – both of West Palm Beach – had purchased public records associated with each of the corporations and used those records to submit fraudulent reinstatement paperwork with the Florida Department of State. The two co-conspirators also secured UPS private mailboxes registered to each of the corporations and created email addresses in an attempt to assume the identity of these closed companies.
“The unclaimed property program works daily to reunite Floridians with what rightfully belongs to them, and I commend the efforts of our Office of Fiscal Integrity for rooting out this scheme to derail their hard work,” stated CFO Jeff Atwater. “This pair’s attempt to steal from their fellow Floridians was brazen, but I’m proud to say we prevented a single penny from going out the door.”
Rigorous verification procedures in place at the Bureau of Unclaimed Property quickly identified suspicious information and prevented the payout of any funds.
Penquite and Gutierrez are charged with a combined total of 47 felony charges, including: Aggravated White Collar Crime, Grand Theft, Filing Invalid Unclaimed Property Claims, and the Fraudulent Use of Personal Identification Information.
The Office of Fiscal Integrity is responsible for statewide investigations of allegations of fraud, waste, or abuse involving state of Florida property and money. To report fraud, waste, or abuse of state resources, visit www.getleanflorida.com or contact the Office of Fiscal Integrity at 850-413-5514.
Bill Lewis of Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Radio talk show host, Starbucks connoisseur, social media whiz, political consultant, extreme coupon shopper, identity theft expert, columnist, philanthropist and his kids Dad.
As a nationally recognized credit repair and ID theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.