On Friday, May 25, 2012, Oscar Luis Franco Padro was sentenced to five and half years in prison for PIP fraud involving staged accidents.
Padro, who managed several clinics and recruited patients to perpetrate the fraud, was ordered to pay $4.35 million in restitution. U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said,
This massive ring orchestrated phony automobile accidents and made a living by defrauding insurance companies of millions of dollars. … Not only were the insurance companies defrauded, but this scheme also hurt consumers as our insurance costs continue to soar because of fraud.
The press release from the State Attorney’s Office details how Padron and others perpetrated the fraud:
In their guilty pleas, the defendants admitted they and others would find individuals who owned automobiles and had car insurance from insurance companies that scheme participants preferred in order to participate in staged automobile accidents. In recorded conversations, the recruiters, used the term Spanish word perro (dog) for the person who causee the staged accident and a pejorative Spanish slang for women to describe the purported victims.
To execute the scheme, the recruiters sought drivers and their friends/family members to participate because, under Florida’s “No Fault” insurance law, insurers must provide PIP coverage of $10,000 per person.
Once the recruiters found the participants, they coached the participants on how to perform the staged accident, what to say to the police officer who responded to the scene and how to claim they were injured.
The accident participants were then directed by the recruiters to chiropractic clinics that were controlled by co-defendants. The staged accident participants were instructed to sign numerous blank treatment forms that would later be submitted indicating that they had visited the clinic on a number of occasions for treatment, although they may have visited the clinic only once or twice.
During their visits, some staged accident participants received no treatment at all, or may have received only a short exam or treatment, but paperwork indicated that a full and lengthy exam and treatment was given. Co-defendants Leon, Diaz, Bello, and Gonzalez are all licensed massage therapists who will lose their licenses.
Co-defendants Padron and Ross also admitted that, when converting the deposits of the mail fraud proceeds to cash, it was done in a way to avoid the $10,000 currency transaction reporting requirement. Two of the co-defendants would write a series of checks, typically for $9,000 each, made payable to different individuals, including Padron and Ross, that would be cashed on the same day, or made payable to the same individual that would be cashed on successive days, even though there were sufficient funds available in the account to allow for a single check to be cashed. Oftentimes co-defendants would go to the bank together to cash checks simultaneously, but each check would be written for less than the $10,000 currency transaction reporting amount.
The clinics involved in this scheme included Chiropractic Office of South Florida, located in Palm Springs, New York Medical and Rehab Center, located in Lake Clarke Shores and Healthcare ’R Us in Palm Springs.
The 15 individuals involved include:
Vladimir Lopez, Lazaro Vigoa Mauri, aka Lazaro Vigoa, Joaquin Ross, aka Joaquin Ross Vasquez or Quinito, Lisbet Leon, aka Lisbet Leon Machado,Aureliano Diaz, Carmen Venegas, Yida Bello, aka La Gorda, Gloria Patricia Cintron, aka Patty, and Veronica Riofrio, aka Vero, Ketty Gonzalez, Ernesto Miralles, Julio Fernandez Delgado, Alex Anoldo Flores, and Zachary Keith Stuhler. Lopez and Vigoa Mauri are fugitives.