Insurance Journal has reported that a Florida man, Claude Milhomme, was arrested for attempting to file a false insurance claim for his vehicle. According to the Department of Financial Services’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team (DFAST), Milhomme filed a claim in September stating water damage to his vehicle caused by Hurricane Irma in the amount of $225 for a diagnosis, after hours fee and storage fee.
DFAST received a suspected fraud tip about one month later. After an inspection by state investigators, it was revealed that Milhomme’s vehicle was mechanically inoperable prior to Hurricane Irma’s landfall in September of 2017.
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A New Jersey judge has ruled that Jeffrey Scholes, a man living in New Jersey but driving a car registered and insured in Florida, may not sue another New Jersey driver for injuries he sustained in a car accident. Judge Patrick Bartels of Essex County Superior Court dismissed Scholes’ personal injury lawsuit against defendant Stephen Hausmann on Oct. 24 citing that it would be a violation of the state’s automobile insurance statutes as Scholes fraudulently maintained a Florida automobile insurance policy while living in New Jersey.
Bartels noted that Scholes had been living and working in New Jersey since 2009 but maintained a Florida insurance policy issued by GEICO, registered his car there and had a Florida driver’s license because it was more cost-effective.
According to the ruling, Scholes was “severely injured” when he was struck head-on by Haumann’s car on Oct. 23, 2014, in South Orange. Although Scholes sustained back injuries that required epidural injections and surgery, Hausmann moved to have Scholes’ lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that New Jersey law requires that people who live in the state and who have a car here must maintain New Jersey car insurance.
Bartels agreed. “[W]e agree that plaintiff’s automobile is not considered insured pursuant to New Jersey law,” he said.
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According to the Panama City News Herald, 65-year-old Debra Jenkins has been arrested and charged with insurance fraud after having her SUV driven into a lagoon and pretending that the vehicle was stolen. The police had reportedly found a stick inside the vehicle on the driver’s floorboard which appeared to be purposely placed there to hold the gas pedal after the car was removed from the water. Video evidence from Jenkins’ neighbor also showed her SUV leaving her home together with another SUV, then only the second SUV returning that night with two people inside.
Jenkins later admitted to deputies that she and a friend had devised the plan to get rid of the vehicle and claim insurance money.
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According to the Palm Beach Post, Fred Thomas Jr., 39, is facing charges of fraud and embezzlement between $300 and $2,000 after he allegedly sold a Palm Beach County woman fraudulent/fake car insurance during a three-year period. Thomas was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol on Interstate 95 for driving with a suspended license when the trooper found an active warrant for Thomas in the insurance fraud case.
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According to Insurance Business America, your auto insurance premiums are going up, all because of ongoing windshield-replacement schemes. As reported by Ryan Smith of Insurance Business America, these windshield schemes involve drivers with cracked windshields signing over insurance benefits to windshield repair and replacement shops. These shops, through an “assignment of benefits”, will then submit an inflated invoice for the work allegedly rendered.
The Tampa Bay area has become the hub of the fraud and abuse involving these schemes. More often then not, the fraudulent schemes are no fault of the insureds. Florida law states that a deductible cannot be applied to windshield replacement and repair services. This allows these shops to advertise that the work being done is “free” to the insureds. The result of these “free” services has led to over 1900 windshield-claim lawsuits in Florida in 2016 alone; increasing litigation costs and ultimately hitting everyone’s pocket.
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Casselberry, Florida residents are victims of windshield replacement scammers. As reported by News 6, a Casselberry resident recently told police that two men came to her door claiming to work for the state government, insisting that a new law had been enacted that requires Floridians to replace their windshields every six months. As a result, the residents become victims, often times being exposed to an increased risk of a cheap windshield popping out and breaking during an accident. In turn, the scammers will contact the victim’s auto insurer and submit an inflated invoice for a service that was not necessary or properly done; potentially resulting in an increase in the victim’s auto insurance premium.
An increased premium is not the only risk insureds face with these scams, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, insureds could face possible fines and, even worse, jail time. Making a repair claim for a windshield you know is undamaged could get you convicted of insurance fraud.
Red flags should go up if someone shows up at your door or chases you down in a parking lot offering to fix your windshield for free. If you believe your windshield has sustained damage and needs to be repaired or replaced, call your insurance company for a list of rebuttable windshield repair/replacement companies.
For more information regarding the windshield repair scams and what you can do to fight back, visit http://www.insurancefraud.org/scam-alerts-windshield.htm.
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On May 2, 2017, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud reported that Wisler Cyrius of Naples was sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.
Cyrius and five other individuals conspired to solicit people to participate in staged motor vehicle accidents in exchange for compensation. According to the Justice Department, Cyrius was also ordered by the court to pay restitution to automobile insurance companies and to forfeit property in the amount of the proceeds traceable to the offense.
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As reported by Law360, Geico sued Medical Wellness Services Inc. of Miami, FL for allegedly making $1.2 million in claims for providing medically unnecessary treatments for automobile accident victims who were eligible for coverage under their no-fault insurance policies. According to Geico, some of the claims were for services that were not actually provided and contained billing codes that misrepresented and exaggerated the services.
“The defendants do not now have — and never had — any right to be compensated for the fraudulent services that were billed to Geico through Medical Wellness,” Geico said. Geico claims Medical Wellness Services Inc. submitted claims for massage therapist services which are not reimbursable because Florida law prohibits no-fault insurance reimbursement for massages or other similar services.
According to the suit, the scheme began no later than 2013 and continues to this day. In addition to the request for $1.2 million in damages, Geico is also requesting a declaration from the court saying it will not have to pay any pending fraudulent claims by the health clinic which totals more than $75,000.
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Florida Highway Patrol Trooper David Casillas was arrested on Tuesday, February 28th and charged with organized fraud, filing a false insurance claim and official misconduct after trying to help a friend cover up a traffic crash that occurred in June of 2015. FHP fired Casillas in January as a result of the investigation which lasted over a year.
During the investigation, it was discovered that Casillas had written a false report for a bogus insurance claim submitted by his friend, dentist Jesus Del Valle. The insurance claim was submitted as a result of damage the dentist had done to his vehicle when he sideswiped a landscaping crew and kept driving.
Del Valle’s crash left Yoel Montero, a gardener with Lewis Tree Service, with a traumatic head injury and severe injuries to his right leg. The false insurance claim alleges that the accident happened a week later than it actually happened and that he had crashed the SUV into a palm tree instead of a landscaping crew.
The key to breaking the case was the fact that Del Valle’s 2015 Land Rover needed a new passenger-side mirror which could only be ordered from Range Rover manufacturers. Only one such had been sold in that time period and it was to Del Valle’s mechanic (and friend) Ariel Perera who performed the repair on his vehicle. Perera also allegedly submitted inflated invoices to Del Valle’s insurance company as well as charged the company for replacement parts that were never actually replaced. He is also facing charges with Del Valle and Casilla.
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According to Southwest Florida Online News, a federal jury found Nesly Loute guilty of fraud after a six day trial where he and five others testified that they had conspired to operate five unlicensed chiropractic clinics and fraudulently billing auto insurers for Personal Injury Protection benefits. This ruling was the culmination of a two-year law enforcement investigation dubbed Operation Fraudulent Pain.
Loute and five other individuals who have also pleaded guilty are facing a maximum penalty of 20 years each in federal prison and must make restitution to the insurance companies they have defrauded. The unlicensed chiropractic clinics had received more that $2 million in fraudulent PIP payments.
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