EViews, the CFO's Weekly Consumer Newsletter

Volume 8 Number 2 January 14, 2011

Dear Floridian:

As your CFO, I have pledged to fight insurance fraud. The criminals who perpetrate these crimes are costing us billions of dollars a year in increased insurance premiums. I am committed to putting these thieves in jail.

In keeping with my pledge, this week detectives with our Division of Insurance Fraud arrested seven suspects in Miami and Naples accused of participating in nearly $170,000 worth of fraudulent auto insurance billings. Collectively, these suspects face a maximum of 300 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Auto insurance fraud alone costs the average Florida family an additional $400 a year. Year after year, that adds up.

Three of the top five cities in the country for staged auto accidents are in Florida—Tampa, Miami and Orlando. Organized fraud rings recruit willing participants, fake an accident in which no one is injured, and send the participants to medical clinics or chiropractic offices for treatments that never occur. The clinics fraudulently bill auto insurance companies the maximum $10,000 limit on the participants’ Personal Injury Protection or PIP.

This type of fraud results in hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent billing, and that is money that comes directly out of our pockets. The arrests this week are the first of many in our mission to combat this costly crime.

Sincerely,
Jeff Atwater
CFO
State of Florida

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater Announces Seven Insurance Fraud Arrests in Two Days in Keeping with his Promise to Attack PIP Fraud

In keeping with his promise to fight Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud and its effect on driving up auto insurance costs, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrests of seven suspects in Miami and Naples accused of participating in nearly $170,000 worth of fraudulent auto insurance billings.

Detectives in CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, made the arrests on Tuesday and Wednesday. The arrests include six individuals accused of staging or participating in fake auto crashes in Miami, and a Naples massage therapist who submitted fraudulent billings on two patients. Collectively, these suspects face a maximum of 300 years in prison if convicted on all charges, which include grand theft, filing false or fraudulent insurance claims, staging an accident and patient brokering.

“PIP fraud perpetrators may find the crime easy to commit, but I am putting the word out that they will do hard time if convicted,” said CFO Atwater. “I am committed to working with law enforcement agencies throughout the state to combat this costly crime and bring financial relief to Florida insurance consumers who foot the bill for fraud when they pay premiums.”

PIP fraud perpetrators may find the crime easy to commit, but I am putting the word out that they will do hard time if convicted,” said CFO Atwater. “I am committed to working with law enforcement agencies throughout the state to combat this costly crime and bring financial relief to Florida insurance consumers who foot the bill for fraud when they pay premiums.”

PIP fraud, which involves a variety of crimes including staged car accidents, fake injuries and fraudulent insurance claims, costs the average Florida family as much $400 a year. Four Florida cities – Tampa, Miami, Orlando and Hialeah – are now listed among the top 10 in the nation for PIP fraud.

Six suspects were arrested on Wednesday in Miami. Ricardo Uranga Guemes, 32, and Yamilka Turino, 30, were arrested on third-degree felony charges stemming from an investigation that determined they recruited five participants in a staged accident. The investigation determined that nearly $78,000 in fraudulent PIP claims were filed. Marlene Linda Mendez, 49, was arrested on felony charges stemming from a May 2009 staged car crash that resulted in $70,000 in fraudulent billings. Santos Colero, 40, and Odalys Sardinas, 42, were arrested and a third man, Michael Perez, 25, is being sought on various felony charges stemming from an August 2010 staged car crash that was reported as a hit-and-run with a phantom vehicle. Two individuals were recruited and paid $1,400 each to participate and file fraudulent injury claims at two medical clinics.

Yesterday, Serenity R. Toler, 24, a massage therapist, was arrested on charges of submitting more than $10,000 in fraudulent claims for two patients who never received treatment. Toler is facing third-degree felony charges.

On December 29, detectives with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrested the clinic owners, Jacqueline Fils and Clebson Fils, on multiple counts of insurance fraud.