What is it with Florida and fraud?

Steve Kroft knows a thing or two about Florida scams. They're as abundant as the oranges that grow there. 60 Minutes takes a look back


For this week's season broadcast of 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft reports from Miami, which he calls the epicenter of the largest tax scam in the country.

It appears difficult for Kroft to keep a straight face when the Miami FBI agent he interviews describes the problem as a "tsunami of fraud" that will cost taxpayers an estimated $5.2 billion.

"I'm laughing at it because I've seen it so many times" Kroft tells 60 Minutes Overtime. "I've spent too much time down there to get outraged about scams in Miami."

Indeed, when 60 Minutes Overtime searched the broadcast's archives, we found numerous Kroft reports on various frauds and schemes in the state of Florida.

In 2009, Kroft and producer Ira Rosen reported on Medicare fraud in Florida, a silent crime that cost Americans $60 billion. (Watch below.)

Medicare fraud: A $60 billion scam

Rosen, who also produced this week's tax scam story, says the two reports share striking similarities.

"It is the government concept of, 'Let's pay the money out, and then chase the money later.'"

In 2005, Kroft and producer Frank Devine traveled to Florida to profile author and columnist, Carl Hiaasen, whose beat was covering the corruption and crooks of his home state. (Watch below.)

Carl Hiaasen's take on Florida

And in 2000, Devine and Kroft did a story titled "Need Cash" about a Florida-based automobile title loan industry that was charging exorbitant interest rates to people in desperate need of cash.

"Coming to Florida in search of stories about scam artists, fraudsters, and outrageous behavior is like going to Louvre in search of art," Devine says. "It's everywhere." (Watch below.)

Florida's loan shark industry

Kroft's first encounter with Florida's scams goes back to 1977, when he was starting out as a local reporter in Miami.

"It was literally my first night in town," Kroft says.

On that night, Kroft encountered a woman who was visibly upset. When he asked what happened, she told him she was in financial trouble and the bank was threatening to repossess her car. When she tried to sort out her situation at the bank, she said they told her the best solution was to park her car in a rough neighborhood. Not long after, it was stolen.

"I just thought, 'Wow, I'd never heard of that.'" Kroft still believes it was a con the bank cooked up.

He says after seven years of reporting in Florida, one of the greatest lessons is this one: "Always count your change."

"It's that kind of town," Kroft says of Miami. "I witnessed it time and time and time again. There are always people there who will take advantage of you."

Still, Kroft says, it's a haven for journalists.

"I love the city only because it's a journalist's dream. There's always been so much going on there that you never have to worry about your next story."

Editor's Note: This Overtime post was originally published on September 21, 2014.