Fake auto accident injury sting nets two

Two entrepreneurs, if that’s the right term, are under arrest in Manatee County for allegedly cooking up a fake auto accident injury scheme. The Florida Department of Financial Services accused the pair of submitting eight fraudulent insurance claims to six insurance companies totaling $40,000. The arrests were part of a Personal Injury Protection sting operation targeting criminals who rig accidents and submit phony claims for medical care.

Authorities say the alleged scheme worked this way: One of the two suspects approached a Sarasota chiropractor and asked if he would be interested in becoming the straw owner of a clinic. A straw owner is someone whose name appears on all the business documents but has little or nothing to do with the actual operation. The chiropractor immediately contacted law enforcement, and investigators told him to go ahead and apply for a clinic license. The other alleged conspirator, who owned an auto body repair shop, planned to steer people who brought their cars in for body work to the chiropractor in return for a fee. The clinic would, in turn, would submit claims to the “injured” patients’ insurance companies.

Thanks to the honest chiropractor, the two alleged schemers face up to five years in prison. Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, says this case is a “prime example” of PIP fraud rings that operate in the state. The Division of Insurance Fraud handed 7,748 cases of alleged PIP fraud in 2011 and insurance fraud overall has increased by 75 percent in the last ten years.

Motorists need to watch out for the three basic “tools” of insurance scammers; the Swoop and Squat, the Panic Stop, and the Drive Down. In the Swoop and Stop, a scammer pulls in front of an innocent motorist and drives a short distance. Then, an accomplice in another car zooms in front of the first car and jams on the brakes. The innocent driver rear-ends the vehicle in front. The Panic Stop requires a lookout in the scammer’s vehicle to keep an eye on the car behind. When the driver looks away for a second or two, the scam vehicle jams on the brakes and causes a rear-end crash. In the Drive Down, the schemer looks for an innocent driver trying to merge into traffic. He waves the merging driver in, then accelerates and hits the merging vehicle. When police arrive, the con artist denies waving the other guy in. So be careful, and if you’re in a suspicious crash, tell the police right away.

Source: Gulf Coast Business Review, “Florida CFO nabs pair for fraud,” Nov. 5, 2012