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Unlicensed adjuster accused of water claim fraud

Miami man arrested on charges related to inflated, fraudulent claims

With property insurers blaming a surge in water-damage claims for increased costs, state authorities said Thursday that a Miami man has been arrested on charges related to inflated and fraudulent claims.

The Florida Department of Financial Services said Julian Garcia-Sellek acted as an unlicensed public adjuster and met with multiple homeowners who were looking for help with insurance claims.

The department said Garcia-Sellek is accused, in part, of using an artist to paint what looked like water stains in homes to inflate the costs of claims or to generate fraudulent claims.

In all, the department said at least $99,000 in claims were fraudulently submitted.

Citizens Property Insurance officials reported suspicious claims to the department's Division of Investigative and Forensic Services, which then began looking into the issues.

A news release Thursday from the department said Garcia-Sellek faces felony fraud and grand-theft charges.

Water-damage claims and a related issue, known as assignment of benefits, have become a major issue in the insurance industry.

The state-backed Citizens Property Insurance said this month it expects to add policies in 2017 as private insurers shy away from issuing new policies in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where water-damage losses have grown most rapidly the past few years.