Florida service members, veterans and their families have a new layer of protection against those seeking to scam them.
In a Monday afternoon ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Military Protection Act bill, which enhances penalties for offenses under the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The new law, pushed for by Attorney General Pam Bondi and co-sponsored by state Sen. Wilton Simpson and state Reps. James Grant and Ross Spano, holds that anyone caught using fraudulent or deceptive business practices against service members, veterans, spouses or dependent children can now face a civil penalty up to $15,000 for each violation.
Under the new law, which went into effect Monday, restitution or reimbursement has priority over the imposition of civil penalties.
"Because of Florida's strong veteran presence, there's more opportunity for individuals to target these populations with predatory schemes that hurt our veterans' quality of life," Scott said. "Make no mistake: there are predators out there who will go after our veterans. ... This bill will create a significant civil penalty - that will be added on top of restitution - for attempting to steal from our veterans or their families."