Hollywood Police Look for Insurance Fraud during Traffic Stops

Broward County drivers traveling through Hollywood may be part of routine traffic stops that police are conducting throughout Wednesday to make sure drivers have appropriate auto insurance.

According to an article in the May 28 Sun Sentinel, agents from more than 20 insurance companies are helping police officers spot fake documents.

The joint operation between the National Insurance Crime Bureau and Hollywood Police aims to check drivers and crackdown on insurance fraud, which occurs in about one in every four drivers in Florida, the Insurance Research Council (IRC) says.

Penalties will vary with the level of the offense. Motorists with expired insurance cards are likely to receive a citation. Arrests may be in store for drivers with fraudulently altered insurance documents, according to officials.

Florida is one of the leaders in insurance fraud. According to the IRC, almost 24 percent of all Florida drivers don’t carry auto insurance, putting it in the top five states.

Operations like this one will help to drive down insurance rates and ensure coverage for those involved in auto accidents, the article explained.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Miami-Dade Clinic Owner Arrested for PIP Fraud in ‘Operation No-Med Services’

Aurora Hernandez, who owned and operated Magic Hands Medical Services, has been arrested on PIP fraud charges for allegedly organizing and billing a staged accident.

According to an announcement by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, her arrest is the latest in an aggressive crackdown called “Operation No-Med Services.” This investigation, which began in May 2013 and involves four accident clinics in Miami-Dade County, has led to the arrests of a medical doctor, two clinic owners, five medical licensees, six staged accident organizers and six other co-conspirators.

The Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) said that its investigation revealed participants from five staged accidents were referred to clinics, including Magic Hands, for treatment that was not provided but still billed to insurance companies in excess of $408,000.

“I am proud of our investigators for their commitment to keeping fraudsters off the streets and out of the pockets of hard-working Floridians,” said CFO Atwater. “Every act of fraud drives up the cost of insurance and we refuse to allow those selfish acts to continue.”

For her role in the scheme, the 32-year old Hernandez faces a maximum of 235 years in prison.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Florida Insurance Premiums May Reflect $100 per Policy in Fraud Costs

Insurance fraud costs U.S. consumers $80 billion annually, according to a recent news report by News4Jax.com. For Florida residents, insurance fraud takes $100 out of consumers’ pockets each year in the form of higher auto and other insurance premiums.

“Staged accidents have been a problem around Florida, especially in urban areas,” reports James Quiggle of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. “Sometimes you can arrest the lower level recruiters or fake patients and convince them that they need to rat out the ring members or leaders in order for liens.”

Arson is another common form of auto fraud, according to claims executives from Main Street America who were interviewed for the News4 story. The use of an accelerant in an auto fire, for example, is usually a good sign that fraud is involved.

Social media posts that indicate signs of potential fraud are also coming under close scrutiny by insurance adjusters and claims executives. In one instance, a “bedridden” claimant posted a social media update showing a recent whitewater rafting expedition.

The good news is that many criminals involved in auto insurance fraud and related forms of fraud are caught and brought to justice.

Click on the link to read the full article “Insurance fraud costing all of us $80 billion a year.”

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Burning Vehicle Demonstration is a Lesson in Auto Insurance Fraud

It was auto insurance fraud in action.

Using burning vehicles as their teaching tool, Infinity Auto Insurance teamed up with the Miami-Dade Fire Department to show insurance adjusters and firefighters how they can detect fraud.

According to a Local 10-WPLG Miami News Broadcast, the fires were started with flares and were contained in a controlled environment. The blazing cars showed how the fire behaved and spread.

“We’ve decided to burn a couple of vehicles to teach the investigators how to detect this fraud,” said Carlos Torres of Infinity Auto Insurance. “The fraud in Florida is very high. Usually people have a financial motive or don’t like their car anymore, so they’ll set them on fire to make them a total loss,” he explained in the news piece.

Of the five top cities in the nation in auto insurance fraud, four of them are in Florida: Miami, Hialeah, Orlando and Tampa.

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Bill to Allow 75 MPH Speed Limit will be Vetoed, Florida Gov. Scott Says

On our April 4 blog post on the FL-PIP guide, “Florida Speed Limits May Rise to 75 MPH,” we discussed the contentious debate surrounding Senate Bill 392, a bill that proposed to raise the speed limit on Florida highways from 70 mph to 75 mph.

The latest development, according to an article in the May 15 Insurance Journal, is that the Governor plans to veto the bill amidst growing concern for the safety of state highway patrol troopers, among others.

Narrowly passing in the Florida Legislature last month, the bill would have allowed the Department of Transportation to increase speed limits on roads that are part of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways and have at least four lanes. The department could have also raised the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on rural, four-lane divided highways and up to 65 mph on other roads. Speed limits would have been increased at the department’s discretion, not automatically.

Scott said that he decided to “stand with law enforcement,” in light of the death of Master Trooper Chelsea Richard. She and two others were struck by a vehicle on May 3 while standing on the side of Interstate 75 near a traffic accident.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and one of the sponsors of the bill, pointed out that having speed limits raised in Florida in the past has not resulted in more fatalities, and said misgivings about safety and motorists driving even faster were inaccurate, according to the article.

The Florida branch of AAA and the president of the Florida Sheriffs Association are in favor of the veto and commended the Governor for his choice.

Since 1996, the maximum speed limit on Florida highways has been 70 mph.

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2008)

Owner of Tampa Accident Clinic Sentenced for Insurance Fraud

Dailin Rojas Perez, who was charged in September with racketeering and money laundering, has entered into a plea agreement and will serve 24 months house arrest for her connection to a major insurance fraud scheme at a Tampa accident clinic, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced.

The 30-year old Rojas Perez is also required to pay $350,000 in restitution to the insurance carriers who were deceptively billed, as well as almost $40,000 in investigative costs. Fraudulent proceeds involved more than $340,000, according to her indictment last fall.

Through an investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud, Rojas Perez’s company—Today’s Medical Marketing, LLC—conspired with Medical Therapy Practitioners to fraudulently bill insurance carriers. The deceptive charges included billing for: services not rendered, services procured as a result of staged automobile crashes, services for patients who had no injuries, and services not compensable because the business license was obtained fraudulently.

“I am proud of our investigators for bringing this fraudster to justice,” CFO Atwater said. “We will not tolerate anyone who commits insurance fraud and causes the rates of hard-working Floridians to increase.”

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Pensacola Chiropractor Sentenced in Insurance Fraud

More than six years in prison and 10 years probation was the sentence handed down to a Pensacola chiropractor who was discovered pressuring patients to overstate their injuries in order to receive large insurance settlements, according to a news release from the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Dr. Russell Dominick, 54, was found guilty of racketeering and grand theft after a clandestine operation exposed his deceptive scheme. An undercover officer posing as a patient was encouraged by Dominick to exaggerate injuries in order to inflate the payment received by insurance.

The Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud began to covertly look into the issue after it received a complaint about Dr. Dominick. Similar experiences were then reported by other patients who also received advice from Dr. Dominick to embellish their injuries.

“Insurance fraud places a financial strain on hard-working Floridians through increased insurance premiums,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. “I am extremely proud of our investigators for working so diligently with our law enforcement partners to put an end to this illegal operation.”

Dominick was arrested by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Health assisted with the investigation. The State Attorney’s Office for the First Judicial Circuit prosecuted the case.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud