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Numerous fraud arrests made statewide

March 17, 2010

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A statewide investigation culminated in nineteen arrests for insurance fraud relating to staged automobile accidents. Arrests were made in Fort Myers, Orlando, Pensacola, Tampa and Miami, Florida. The defendants were all involved in staged accidents and filed false claims with insurance companies for fraudulent medical treatment and lost wages. Although the media has been focusing on Medicare fraud and mortgage fraud in the South Florida area, the most common type of fraud being committed in Miami and throughout the state is personal injury fraud. Staged accident cases are typically filed in state circuit courts. Until about five years ago, the losses being suffered by insurance companies as a result of staged accidents was fairly limited. As the losses have significantly mounted, law enforcement, including the state attorney's office, has created specialized units to deal specifically with these types of cases. If you or someone you know has been arrested for insurance fraud, contact a Miami criminal lawyer who has experience in defending these types of cases in state court.

Prosecutors typically charge defendants involved in staged accidents with grand theft and false and fraudulent insurance claims. Grand theft can be charged in the 1st, 2nd of 3rd degree depending on the amount of loss to the insurance company. If the loss is under $20,000, the charge will be grand theft in the third degree. If the loss is between $20,000 and $100,000, the charge will be grand theft in the second degree. If the loss exceeds $100,000, which is very rare, the charge will be grand theft in the first degree. The charge of filing a false and/or fraudulent insurance claim is a felony in the third degree. In order to be convicted of the offense the prosecutor must prove that a defendant presented a false statement to an insurance company with the knowledge that the information being provided was false for monetary gain.

The Florida legislature recently upped the ante, recognizing that people involved in staged accidents are first time offenders that would probably receive probation or perhaps a pre-trial diversion program. Anyone involved in organizing, planning or knowingly participating in an intentional automobile accident with the intent of filing a fraudulent insurance claim is facing a second degree felony with a two year minimum mandatory prison sentence. That means that anyone, even a mere passenger, who is knowingly involved in a staged accident and files an insurance claim is facing a prison sentence. Even lawyers are affected by the new legislation as they to face a two year prison sentence if they knowingly solicit clients that they know were involved in staged accidents to file insurance claims.

A typical case begins with the insurance company's investigation. If they find any abnormalities in the claim based in their investigation, they will contact the Department of Insurance to conduct a criminal investigation. If evidence substantiates a staged accident, the planners, drivers and passengers will be charged. The detectives will also seek to implicate the clinics that treated the patients. Receptionist, clerks, doctors and clinic owners will all be investigated. To charge individuals involved with the clinic, the prosecutors generally rely on the accident participants to testify against them. Typically, the prosecutors will offer lenient pleas to the minor players in order to catch the big fish. However, a skilled Miami criminal law firm will decimate the credibility of these witnesses at deposition. The only evidence the prosecution usually has is that of witnesses trying to save their own skin. Without corroboration, the cases against the doctors, clinic owners and doctors are very weak. It is imperative that these types of defendants seek the assistance of legal counsel as soon as they are contacted by law enforcement. If you are a clinic owner, doctor or lawyer, never give a statement to detectives. A statement provided by a defendant will be just the corroboration the prosecution needs to send a person to prison.

19 Arrested in Florida Sweep of Staged Accidents, The Miami Herald, March 17, 2010.
Categories: Fraud
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