Tag Archives: Staged accidents

Nine Arrested in Miami PIP Fraud Schemes

There has been no shortage of auto insurance fraud in Miami of late as Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrests of nine individuals who have been charged in connection with eight separate cases of personal injury protection (PIP) fraud schemes.

According to Atwater’s announcement, the Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) uncovered seven staged vehicle accidents in which the scammers collectively filed more than $242,000 in fraudulent billings to 11 different insurance carriers. Staged accident participants were referred to at least 13 different South Florida medical clinics.

The nine were arrested for acting in one or more of these capacities:

  • The organizer or staged accident recruiter;
  • The patient broker who encouraged participants to seek post-accident medical treatment for bogus injuries;
  • The licensed medical provider who agreed to sign off on falsified medical documents in exchange for payment billed under PIP insurance benefits.

The investigation into these cases remains ongoing and additional arrests are expected, DIF said.

“While their injuries may have been fake, PIP fraud is real and it is not a victimless crime,” CFO Atwater commented. “When insurance carriers absorb such high-dollar losses to fraud, we all pay in the form of higher insurance premiums. I’m thankful to our dedicated investigative team for shutting down this fraud ring.”

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Cuban Crime Rings behind Florida Staged Accident Fraud

Originally intended to provide refuge to those fleeing Cuba’s Castro regime, the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 has enabled a thriving Cuban criminal network to expand from South Florida throughout the country and take hold without legal recourse. A recent three-part series by the Sun Sentinel, which examines the prevalence of this illegal activity, reveals that the cost to American businesses and taxpayers exceeds $2 billion over the past 20 years.

The story found Cuban criminals often work in rings that specialize in non-violent economic crimes such as credit card fraud, cargo theft, Medicare fraud, and insurance fraud through staged auto accidents. Frequently, they make their money, move it to Cuba, and return to the U.S. when more money needs to be made.

One massive auto insurance fraud ring with more than 100 participants—most of whom were Cuban—exemplifies just how easy it is for these groups to pull off the crime and get away with it because of their special immigration status.

In this particular case, 21 clinics in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties were involved in $18 million worth of fraud. Recruits found participants to smash cars with sledgehammers and stage vehicle accidents. Participants were then sent to the identified clinics that billed injury claims to auto insurance companies for treatment of their fake maladies.

It was discovered that the accused ringleaders were Cuban immigrants who were returning to Cuba on a weekly basis. Millions of dollars stayed in Cuba, apparently used to purchase properties and support family there, as IRS agent Pamela Martin testified at a court hearing last year.

After the FBI started to bust the fraud ring and make arrests, five main organizers fled back to Cuba, evading capture.

According to Fred Burkhardt, who is a South Florida auto-insurance industry fraud investigator from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the small-scale outfits of a decade ago have evolved and become very sophisticated and organized.

“Someone is sitting back with a strategy, figuring out where the clinics will be, where the patients will come from,” he said. “There’s a structure involved. There are specific duties that people have.”

Staging auto accidents to defraud insurance companies basically started in Miami in the late 1990s, the Sun Sentinel reported. By 2007, the crime has progressed to other Florida cities like Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, Burkhardt said.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Staged Accident Organizer Arrested in Orlando

A 41-year old from Orlando, who was at the center of an alleged staged vehicle accident which occurred in 2013, was recently apprehended by the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF).

Jean Severe was arrested in November for organizing the fake crash.  According to DIF, participants were sent to Florida Chiro & Rehab Center for unnecessary medical treatment of their bogus injuries.  The scheme resulted in more than $6,000 in false claims filed with insurers Allstate and GEICO.

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DIF Arrests Miami-Dade Staged Accident Organizer

Ismael Govea Morales was detained and arrested in Miami-Dade County for organizing two staged accidents, the Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) reported. He was booked at the county jail in Miami in November.

DIF’s investigation found that the 49-year old recruited participants for two staged accidents occurring in June and August of 2012. Participants in the scheme were referred to clinics in Miami including Beyond Care Corp, Med Life Medical Services, Union Medical Center, Cedar Valley Medical Group, Intensive Therapy and MS Medical Rehab Corp.

The clinics then billed six different insurance carriers—Geico, Kingsway Amigo, Progressive, State Farm, United Auto, and York Services—totaling more than $167,000 in fraudulent charges as a result.

In addition, 76-year old Manuel Alvarez, one of the participants in the June 2012 fake crash, was arrested in November.

This isn’t the first time Govea has been involved in a fraudulent scheme. In January 2013, DIF arrested him on charges of insurance fraud, grand theft, money laundering, organized scheme to defraud, and making false entries on books of corporation.

At that time, Govea was charged with a total of 363 counts for his role in a sophisticated insurance fraud scheme that involved a clinic in Hialeah. Unbeknownst to the true owners of this clinic, Prudential Diagnostic Center, Govea added his name as an officer to the corporation in 2011. The clinic incorporated in 2008, but later closed in 2009.

Govea used Prudential Diagnostic Center as the conduit for defrauding insurance carriers of more than $726,000 in fraudulent billings, according to DIF. He opened a mail drop to collect insurance checks, and between January and June of 2011, Govea allegedly used the corporation to submit billings to 27 different insurance carriers for MRI services that never took place, resulting in nearly $440,000 in payments.

At first, Govea cashed about $44,000 worth of checks through a bank account he opened under the corporation name, but later switched to a check cashing store in Coral Gables to cash the vast majority of the checks.

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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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Adjusters Unsure about Questionable Claims Delve into Accident Data

In an earlier FL-PIP Blog post titled “Accident Reconstructionists assist Insurance Adjusters in Uncovering Staged Accidents,” we reported how insurance companies may hire accident reconstructionists to analyze car crash data from police reports, photographs, incident descriptions, and repair records to help determine whether car accident claims are real or if crashes were staged.

A recent article in Property Casualty 360° took a look at common scenarios where accident reconstructionists provide input to insurance adjusters. A summary appears below.

Car Accident Scenario #1

The driver of a vehicle said another car hit him from behind when he was slowing for traffic. The other car did not stop to exchange information.

The claims adjuster, who photographed the damage, was suspicious because he thought the damage looked old, the vehicle had recently been added to the policy, and the claimant received a check a few months earlier on a different vehicle but with a similar story.

The data that the accident reconstructionist researched for the different model years and their variants found that the top of the bumper of these vehicles was always at or below 22 inches. It was also determined that the damage showed no signs of paint transfer. Using this information, the accident reconstructionist was able to definitively conclude that the damage seen on the vehicle did not match the driver’s testimony. The claims adjuster denied the claim in full.

Car Accident Scenario #2

Minor contact between the rear of a Chevrolet Malibu and the front of a Hyundai Elantra was reported with the scuff on the Elantra noted to be consistent with a sliding motion. Further investigation was called in uncovering that the Malibu was in a previous crash severe enough to be sold with a salvage title. No other details, including repair records, were available. The driver of the Malibu claimed that in addition to a small dented area on the right rear corner of the rear bumper cover, there was damage to the Malibu’s trunk area, more prominent on the left side of the vehicle.

The accident reconstructionist had test data run on an Elantra from the same model from a 3-mile-per-hour corner impact test and was able to determine that the damage for the Elantra involved in the incident is consistent with a collision at less than 4.2-miles-per-hour. A Conservation of Momentum analysis was then performed and found that an impact resulting in a Delta-V (the change in velocity of the vehicle from its pre-impact, initial velocity, to its post-impact velocity) of 4.2 miles per hour for the Hyundai Elantra would result in a Delta-V of 3.5 miles per hour for the Chevrolet Malibu.

Test data was obtained from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for the Chevrolet Malibu and it was determined that the claim was for more severe damage than was sustained and that the damage was partially in an area that was too far away from the actual point of contact.

It was found that not all of the claimed damages to the Malibu could be attributed to contact from the Elantra, and the insurance company subsequently denied all costs associated with the underlying damages.

Every case is unique, and claims with injuries will be treated differently.

Click on the link to read the full article, “Is that auto accident staged? Here’s how to tell.”

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2008), Insurance Fraud

Accident Reconstructionists assist Insurance Adjusters in Uncovering Staged Accidents

In some cases, auto accident claims raise red flags with insurers. The damage reported may be clearly visible and no claim for injury has been made, but adjusters just can’t put their finger on it. Before insurers pay the claim, however, they can bring in an accident reconstructionist to help put the pieces of the puzzle together and hedge against fraud.

According to an article in Property Casualty 360°, accident reconstructionists are investigators familiar with questionable claims such as when the vehicle damage doesn’t match the claimant’s story. Frequently, they do their work based on the claimant’s incident description, police report, repair records, and photographs.

Accident reconstructionists delve into many different aspects of the accident including: comparing the damages to the claimant’s statement of the sequence of events; making sure damages match the police report; and verifying that the damages between the vehicles meet the shape and height of the vehicles involved.

Key to making a conclusion lies in geometry and patterns of the vehicles and the damage they sustained. Photographs of the vehicle, in addition to information about the specific make and model enable accident reconstructionists to obtain the vehicle’s specific damage dimensions for use in their analyses. Even so, every case is different and must be considered independently before reaching a conclusion.

Because the scope of assignments are very specific, accident reconstructionists often can quote a price for their work based on the nature of the claim, available evidence, and whether a verbal update or a written report is required.

Input from accident reconstructionists may be invaluable to insurers. They sift through information and provide the missing data necessary to determine whether an accident was staged or if a claim is fraudulent.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud