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Local law enforcement still making insurance fraud arrests

January 17, 2011

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The Chief Financial Officer for the State of Florida announced six recent arrests involving staged accidents and insurance fraud. Other than mortgage fraud and Medicare fraud, staged accident insurance fraud remains problematic for both politicians and law enforcement. Although Miami criminal attorneys have seen a decrease in the number of staged accident cases hitting the court dockets, arrests are still being made. According to reports, Florida led the nation in false insurance claims related to staged accidents, with New York and New Jersey close behind. The problem became so serious in South Florida, that the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office assigned the prosecution of these fraud crimes to a specialized unit. However, Florida tallied approximately 30 arrests last year which was down from previous years.

Insurance fraud is covered under Florida Statute 817.234. Insurance fraud is defined as anyone who presents or causes to present a claim for payment to an insurance company knowing that the information provided was false, incomplete or misleading. Insurance fraud is a third felony punishable up to five years in prison. First-time offenders will often be offered a pre-trial intervention program as long as the person has no prior criminal history. However, the legislature changed the law in staged accident cases because of the large number of fraudulent activity reported.

The current state of the law specifically target individuals who organize, plan or knowingly participate in staged accidents. If individuals fall into these categories and motor vehicle insurance claims were made on behalf of the participants involved in the fraud, the offense is increased to a second degree felony, but more importantly the offense carries a two year minimum prison sentence. Even first-time offenders with no prior criminal record to speak of, still face a prison sentence. While the offense is serious, there are ways to defend these types of cases.

Criminal defense attorneys know that the strength of the prosecutor's cases generally lies with witnesses who have agreed to cooperate with the state in an effort to avoid a jail sentence. In many cases, the state only has testimony of charged and uncharged witnesses trying to avoid being prosecuted. Knowing this, it is important to remember never to provide a statement to law enforcement or detectives. Any inculpatory statement will corroborate the testimony of the state witnesses and cause serious problems in defending the case. Anyone contacted by law enforcement regarding a staged accident should seek out and obtain advice from a criminal defense law firm with experience in defending insurance fraud cases.

Six Arrested in Miami for Allegedly Staging Accidents,, January 17, 2010.
Categories: Fraud
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