Property Problems

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Owning property can be difficult; in most cases, you’re required to maintain it. But, does anyone really check up on your property? According to a Miami Herald article, nearly 100 individuals have been cited for property problems, and we aren’t talking about ugly flowers – we are talking about fraud.

Florida has had its fair share of problems with fraud in government programs. Unfortunately for fraudsters, Miami-Dade County officials have caught on to the latest scam: homestead exemption fraud. (If your state has a homestead exemption or something similar like school tax relief, the chances are that the counties are being defrauded.) The Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s Office cited 200 Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) that had claimed homestead exemptions resulting in a property tax discount. As part of the law, ALFs are eligible for homestead exemptions, if the owner of the ALF lives on the property. An investigation allegedly discovered 98 of those 200 homes did not have the property owner living on the property, meaning they were no longer eligible for homestead exemption. Remove the tax discounts and problem solved, right? Wrong.

What sparked an investigation of ALFs receiving homestead exemptions? A Miami-Dade property appraiser explained the investigations were warranted after the office received multiple complaints from constituents while he was a member of the state House of Representatives. (He only did a small sampling of 200 ALFs – think of what a large scale, state-wide cross check of ALFs receiving homestead exemption could turn up?) Under Florida law, violations of the homestead statute are assessed for back taxes with a 50 percent penalty and 15 percent interest. (Why don’t we add jail time into the violation of the statute?) As if the discovery of the ineligible homes wasn’t enough, investigators revealed one ALF owner allegedly ran her facility while on house arrest after being charged with bilking cash from a hospital for creating ”ghost employees.”

Not only might these owners be providing poor care for the elderly and those in need of assisted living, but they also may be lying about living on the facility property to save a couple hundred bucks in property taxes. I see where every penny is worth it; however, we need to flip this around and put every penny into putting an end to fraud.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Almost 200 ALFs Accused of Cheating on Property Taxes,” written by Carol Marbin Miller and published by the Miami Herald on May 9, 2013.

The property appraiser’s office said Gordon was running a six-bed, 1,500-square-foot ALF at 19117 NW 33rd Ave. Gordon was not living at the home, Lopez-Cantera said, so she did not qualify for any homestead exemptions. The appraiser said she is facing $7,000 in fines.

Long the subject of criticism by neighborhood groups and elder advocates, the state’s assisted-living industry came under withering scrutiny two years ago when The Miami Herald published a series of stories, called Neglected to Death, that found dozens of people dying of abuse and neglect, with caretakers tying frail residents with ropes and forcing them into closets. In the series’ wake, several of the worst home were shut down, while others faced oversight that had not been seen in decades. Gov. Rick Scott created a two-year task force that studied the industry and recommended a host of reforms that the Legislature ignored.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.