Panhandle Auto Body Shop Owners Charged with Insurance Fraud

The Wreck-O-Mended auto body shop in Quincy, Fla. was the setting for an insurance fraud scam, according to a report by WTXL TV. Quincy is a small town of approximately 7,000 residents located northwest of Tallahassee in the Panhandle.

Owner Russell D. Owens and his wife Cassandra Owens received almost $2,000 in payment from Progressive Insurance Company for the replacement of a bumper, trunk lid and side panel on an insured’s damaged vehicle. The work was allegedly not done properly, and yet the body shop owners kept the insurance money. The insured must now pursue legal action against the shop in order to collect any money owed to complete the repairs, according to the report.

Russell Owens is accused of overcharging for repairs, a felony, and grand auto theft. Cassandra Owens is charged with criminal conspiracy for her role in the scam. Both parties were arrested this week by the Florida Department of Insurance Fraud.

Click on the link to read the full report.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Feds Hoping Latest Charges Against PIP Fraudster Turned ‘Alligator Whisperer’ Have Teeth

Hal Mark Kreitman’s role as the ‘Alligator Whisperer’ may land him in even hotter water if federal prosecutors have their way. Authorities were hoping the latest charges against the 51-year old, allegedly for alligator endangerment, were enough to revoke his bond on recent PIP fraud convictions and send him directly to jail.

The former Miami chiropractor was sentenced just a few weeks ago, as we reported on our FL-PIP Guide on October 15, for his role in a larger staged automobile accident fraud ring that involved Personal Injury Protection (PIP) payments to defraud insurance companies through mail fraud and money laundering. Kreitman was sentenced to eight years, ordered to pay more than $1.63 million in restitution, and scheduled to start his prison term on January 5.

According to an article in the Sun Sentinel, Kreitman was hardly out on bond before he was arrested in the Everglades by officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He was accused of allegedly enticing alligators to offer customers the “Alligator Experience”—face-to-face encounters with the reptiles—if they were willing to pay $250.

Authorities say Kreitman’s interactions with the alligators violate state and federal laws. As a result, the alligators involved may have to be killed because they’ve lost their natural fear of humans, making them dangerous.

After prosecutors argued that Kreitman violated the terms of his release, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra decided to delay his ruling, giving him the chance to carefully re-read all relevant laws. For now, the “Alligator Whisperer” remains free.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Wake Up Call: Drowsy Driving Plays Significant Role in Fatal Crashes

As daytime hours shorten and evening commutes darken due to the end of daylight saving time, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is pointing out that the prevalence of driver fatigue plays a bigger role in fatal crashes than previously thought.

According to new research, more than 21 percent—or one-in-five—fatal crashes involve drowsy driving. These findings, which show a greater occurrence than official National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, bear out what experts have long suspected.

The report also found that one-third of crashes involving a drowsy driver resulted in injuries. Even more serious, is that each year more than 6,000 fatigue-related crashes result in at least one fatality, the research revealed.

Prior research from the AAA Foundation uncovered that young adult drivers, ages 19-24, are the most serious offenders with 33 percent admitting to driving while drowsy in the last month. In contrast, the oldest (ages 75+) and the youngest (ages 16-18) drivers were the least likely to report the same offense.

“Despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans deem it ‘unacceptable’ to drive when they are so tired that they have a hard time keeping their eyes open, more than 28 percent admit to doing so in the last month,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Like other impairments, driving while drowsy is not without risk,” he warned.

AAA is urging drivers to recognize warning signs of driver fatigue and take action to avoid tragedy during normal driving, and through the upcoming holiday season.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Prevalence of Motor Vehicle Crashes Involving Drowsy Drivers report is based on the analysis of a representative sample of 14,268 crashes that occurred in years 2009–2013 in which at least one vehicle was towed from the scene.

AAA is highlighting the risks of drowsy driving in support of the National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®, which runs November 2-9. For more information, visit their website at www.DrowsyDriving.org.

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Uninsured Drivers Caught by Broward Sheriff’s Fraudulent Insurance Verification Operation

Recently, some uninsured motorists driving in Broward County were in for a real revelation. On September 17, law enforcement officers worked traffic stops and were able to verify insurance coverage on-the-spot that day, much to the surprise of drivers.

The operation, known as the Fraudulent Insurance Verification Operation or FIVO, was conducted by the Broward Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with 30 insurance investigators who had instant access to their client databases. Setting up command central at the Tamarac BSO, the investigators provided real-time insurance information to police officers throughout the county for the day, according to a story in Tamarac Talk.

As a result of using this proactive strategy against insurance fraud, a total of 460 vehicle stops were conducted resulting in 563 citations and seven arrests, the Florida Department of Insurance Fraud reported.

Participating in FIVO were: Allstate, Assurant, Bristol West, Direct General, Esurance, Farmers, Gainsco, Geico, Imperial Fire, Infinity, Mapfre, Mercury, MetLife, National General, Nationwide, Security General, Sentry, State Farm, Travelers, USAA and Windhaven.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud says that Florida ranks fifth highest in the nation for uninsured motorists, which is estimated to cost each family about $950 a year. Under Florida law, anyone presenting a fraudulent proof of motor vehicle insurance has committed a third-degree felony.

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2008)

Five Arrested, Two Wanted in Organized South Florida PIP Fraud Scheme

Attorneys, chiropractors and clinic employees in Martin, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties were swept up this morning in the culmination of a year-long undercover investigation led by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud.

Two Boca Raton attorneys are among the five individuals arrested today:

• Brian Greenspoon (attorney), Boca Raton
• Cory Meltzer (attorney), Boca Raton
• Roger Hughes Bell (chiropractor), Hobe Sound
• Alejandro Marin, Homestead
• Douglas Santiago, Boynton Beach

Lake Worth chiropractor Ray Grand and Stuart resident Christina Savoye have warrants out for their arrest.

A brokering agreement among participants governed the payment of fees to a patient broker who recruited patients illegally for treatment at unnamed South Florida medical clinics. Unbeknownst to the crime ring organizers, the broker was in reality an undercover agent. Other law enforcement personnel, also working under cover, infiltrated the clinics involved to document the allegedly criminal activities.

Principals in the fraud scheme acknowledged on several occasions that it was illegal to pay for patients, so all referrals were paid under the guise of marketing services, according to a press release issued by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Apparently, insurance carriers and others were billed by participating clinics for medical and chiropractic services that were not rendered. Patients were also being taught how to fake injuries, according to the release.

While exact dollar amounts are not available, the crime ring is believed to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent billings.

The defendants will be prosecuted by the 15th and 19th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s offices, according to the release.

Click on the link to read the full news release.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

South Florida Chiropractor Tied to 2013 PIP Fraud Investigation Surrenders License

On our FL-PIP Guide in September 2013, we reported that chiropractor David Hirschenson was arrested and charged with 19 counts of obtaining illegal crash reports and one count of solicitation.

An update in the case is now being reported. According to the Florida Department of Insurance Fraud (DIF), the 56-year old chiropractor was sentenced in a Miami-Dade County Court this September as a result of the charges made against him a year ago. He received five years probation and also surrendered his chiropractor’s license to the Department of Health.

Details in the case revealed that Hirschenson actually worked with two others in the scheme. The first was a runner who solicited accident victims. In an interesting development in that case, the victims were not referred to Hirschenson’s clinic, but instead to another clinic in North Miami Beach—Advanced Chiropractic and Medical Center.

The second co-conspirator was a local radio station staffer who used the media exception status at the station to request accident reports from a variety of police departments. Hirschenson then used this information illegally to solicit accident victims. DIF arrested both co-conspirators, who cooperated in the investigation against Hirschenson.

Hirschenson, who originally received his chiropractor license in Florida in 1982, also had a prior arrest in the late 1980s as part of an investigation involving solicitation and insurance fraud in Broward County. He was placed on probation for two years by the Board of Chiropractic, but retained his state license for cooperating with the State Attorney’s Office. Hirschenson worked at and operated several clinics, including Pines Total Health Center in Pembroke Pines and Body and Mind Wellness Center in Coral Gables.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Staged Accidents and Insurance Fraud Lead to Miami and Orlando Arrests

September was a busy month for the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF). The agency arrested a massage therapist for fabricating medical forms, as well as four other individuals who organized and recruited participants to be involved in staged accidents.

According to DIF, one arrest occurred in Orlando while the remainder took place in Miami. Those arrested in the five unrelated cases include:

Madelein Marin Aroche. The 41-year old massage therapist worked at New Life Medical Center in Miami. She was charged with insurance fraud after submitting false therapy forms for treatment she never provided to two patients who participated in staged accidents. Her scheme resulted in almost $30,000 in fraudulent billing to GEICO Insurance Co.

Renfroe Lorenz Tyson. The 46-year old recruiter and participant was arrested in Orlando for his role in a 2013 staged accident that resulted in more than $6,600 in fraudulent billings to Allstate and GEICO.

Victor Manuel Hernandez. The 32-year old from Miami conspired with William Tejeda Mayobanex, who was arrested by DIF in August. Hernandez helped recruit participants for a staged accident in 2011. The participants were then referred to A & J Rehabilitation Center and D & J Rehabilitation Center, where more than $64,000 in fraudulent billings were submitted to United Auto and York Services.

Vladimir Caro. The 38-year old organizer staged an accident in 2011. The six participants in the crash were also referred to A & J Rehabilitation Center and D & J Rehabilitation Center. More than $117,000 in fraudulent billings were submitted to Allstate, State Farm, United Auto and Windhaven.

Sandy Morales Castro, 33, was identified as a recruiter and the eighth subject arrested in a staged accident that occurred in 2010. This fake crash resulted in more than $46,000 in fraudulent billings submitted to GEICO, MGA and Progressive.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud