In a September post, we explained that state and local authorities are cracking down on staged car accidents and educating drivers on the various ways in which fraudsters try to cause accidents on the road in order to collect on insurance. Now it looks like the crackdown is bearing fruit, at least in the form or arrests. A pair of Miami women were recently arrested and charged with insurance fraud, racketeering, grand theft, patient brokering, organized scheme to defraud and operating an unlicensed clinic for their roles in an alleged accident staging scheme, according to the Sun Sentinel's Julie Patel.
The women, 61-year-old Rebeca Velazco and her 41-year-old daughter Daisy Sarmiento, were arrested in connection with a scam through which perpetrators staged accidents and submitted fraudulent medical bills in support of their insurance claims. Earlier this year, 25 individuals involved in the scam were charged as part of a bust that officials deemed "Operation Dark Horizon."
Reports show that staged accidents cost Florida drivers about an extra $50 a year in insurance premiums. Three Sunshine State cities - Tampa, Miami and Orlando - are in the top five cities nationally for questionable medical claims associated with staged accidents. In Miami alone, there were more than 500 suspected staged car accidents in 2010.
As state leaders are mulling calls for a complete overhaul of Florida's Personal Injury Protection (PIP) - the "no fault" auto insurance program designed to quickly provide benefits for a person injured in an automobile accident, regardless of fault - law enforcement is taking aim at drivers trying to game the current system. The state's Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud, which includes 155 law enforcement officers, made close to 1,000 insurance fraud-related arrests last fiscal year.
"This is far from the end of our efforts to fight such frauds," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. said in announcing the earlier arrests.