Tag Archives: Insurance Fraud

Palm Beach Post Receives National Recognition for Insurance Fraud Coverage

Washington-based policy and research group, Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, has awarded its inaugural journalism award for fraud reporting to The Palm Beach Post for its work on fraud in the sober-home industry. The award honored Post coverage dating back to 2015 when Post investigators Christine Stapleton and Pat Beall first wrote about how sober-home operators were defrauding insurers of millions of dollars for urine drug tests.

Sober homes were requiring residents to be tested every day, creating multimillion-dollar business empires. Palm Beach County treatment centers and affiliated labs were charging as much as $2,000 for urine tests that can be purchased for $25 at a drug store.

In 2016, a team of Post reporters and editors, including Stapleton, Beall, Lawrence Mower, Joe Capozzi, John Pacenti, Barbara Marshall and Mike Stuck produced “Heroin: Killer of a Generation,” a 12-page special section of stories about 216 men, women and teenagers who died of a heroin-related overdoses in Palm Beach County in 2015. One in 10 had died in a sober home.

The Post’s reporting played a role in the prosecution of sober-home operators Kenneth Chatman and Eric Snyder as well as the successful push to tighten state laws which have resulted in more than 40 people on charges related to brokering patients.

Congratulations to the Palm Beach Post on this national recognition for their work in fighting insurance fraud.

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Filed under Florida, Insurance, Insurance Fraud, Palm Beach County

Florida Man Arrested for False Insurance Claim

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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Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Fraud

UPDATE – Pilot Theodore R. Wright III Pleads Guilty to Insurance Fraud

UPDATE – Pilot Theodore R. Wright III Pleads Guilty to Insurance Fraud

According to KLTV 7 of Texas, Theodore R. Wright III, the well-known pilot who survived a 2012 Gulf of Mexico crash and used an iPad to record his time in the water, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit arson. Wright and three others also pleaded guilty to buying, over-insuring and ultimately destroying planes, boats, and cars to collect cash.

In May 2017, the Wright and his co-conspirators, Shane Gordon, Raymond Fosdick, and Edward Delima were charged with using fire to commit a felony and aiding and abetting, arson of property used in interstate or foreign commerce or used in an activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.

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Filed under Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit of Injured NJ Driver Who Maintained FL Insurance Policy

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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Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Fraud, New Jersey, PIP

Panama City Woman Sinks SUV for Insurance Money

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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Filed under Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Fraud

Florida Man Caught Staging Crash on Dashcam

According to the Sun Sentinel, a Florida man was arrested on Friday, October 6th in connection with an alleged staged crash that occurred in December of 2016. 65-year-old Mauril Aldophe of Delray Beach plotted to force a tow truck to rear-end him. Unfortunately for Mr. Aldophe, the tow truck was equipped with a dashcam capturing footage of him abruptly stopping for no apparent reason and then driving forward for several feet, throwing his car into reverse, and then slamming back into the tow truck.

According to investigators, Mr. Aldophe went to a medical clinic three days after the incident and filed a personal injury claim stating a truck had rear-ended him while he was stopped at a red light.

Mr. Aldophe now faces charges for insurance fraud and participation in an intentional crash.

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Filed under Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance Claims, Insurance Fraud, Personal Injury Protection, PIP, PIP/No Fault

Insurance Agent Allegedly Sold Fraudulent Insurance Policy

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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Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Fraud, Palm Beach County

Pilot Theodore R. Wright III Faces Decades in Prison for Insurance Fraud

As reported by Flying Magazine, rising social media star Theodore Robert Wright III who gained notoriety for chronicling his larger-than-life flying exploits in photos on Facebook and Instagram has been charged with intentionally crashing his plane into the Gulf of Mexico to collect insurance money. Wright is facing serious prison time after federal law enforcement officials charged the 32-year-old with multiple counts of insurance fraud.

Wright and three associates (Shane Gordon of Texas, Raymond Fosdick of South Carolina, and Edward Delima of Hawaii) are charged with being involved in the destruction of a 1971 Cessna Citation, a Lamborghini Gallardo and a luxury sailboat in Hawaii, all to collect insurance payouts.

That’s not where the alleged fraud ended, prosecutors say. In an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas, Wright and three associates are charged with multiple felonies. Besides the Baron, officials say Wright was involved in the destruction of a 1971 Cessna Citation, a Lamborghini Gallardo and a luxury sailboat in Hawaii, all to collect insurance payouts. Prosecutors allege the men would acquire vehicles, insure them, destroy the vehicles and then collect the insurance money, a conspiracy that lasted from March 2012 to March 2017, according to the indictment.

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Filed under Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Fraud

Florida Insurance Rates Rise Thanks to Windshield-Replacement Schemes

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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Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, Insurance, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud, Windshield, Windshield Damage Scam

New Amendments Affecting Anti-Fraud Investigative Units

The Legislature has passed some amendments that are likely to affect your SIUs. We have reviewed the new law and would like to provide you with a summary of some of the most important points.

Chapter 2017-178, Laws of Florida, primarily amended § 626.9891, Florida Statutes and went into effect June 26, 2017, when the Governor signed the bill. These amendments deal with insurer “anti-fraud investigative units.” There is very little, if anything, that must be done now other than learn the law and know what your responsibilities and timelines are.

Although you have an SIU to cover the main features of the law, some new reporting requirements and designation of an anti-fraud unit with at least 2 hours of initial anti-fraud education and 1 hour per year after that, will require all insurers “to investigate and report possible fraudulent insurance acts” to Florida government. The amendments to § 626.9891 [insurer anti-fraud investigative units; penalties for noncompliance], Florida Statutes, provide the who, what, how, when and where.

SUMMARY

*There is no legislative staff analysis of this law

By December 18, 2018, DIFS shall create best practices for the detection, investigation, prevention, and reporting of insurance fraud and other fraudulent insurance acts. The report must be updated as necessary but at least every 2 years. The report must contain specified criteria set forth in the section.

The Department of Financial Services is authorized to create rules for the administration this section. This is neither the Office of Insurance Regulation nor the Financial Services Commission (Governor and selected cabinet).

While there are compliance dates for insurers and agencies, the bill became effective upon becoming a law on June 26, 2017. By December 31, 2017, each insurer must:

  • If not in-house, contract with others to provide anti-fraud services
  • Adopt anti-fraud plan (discussed below)
  • Designate at least one employee to provide these services
  • Electronically submit reports of anti-fraud plan with the name and contact information of designated person to DIFS
  • The additional cost to the insurer for compliance may be added as an administrative expense in rate requests

Each anti-fraud plan shall include:

  • Procedures for mandatory reporting of insurance fraud
  • Acknowledgement that the insurer provides education and training required by section
  • Description of anti-fraud education and training
  • Description or flow chart of anti-fraud unit
  • Rationale and justification for level of staffing and resources used by anti-fraud unit based upon specified criteria

By December 31, 2018, each insurer shall provide staff of the anti-fraud investigative unit at least 2 hours of initial anti-fraud training that is designed to assist in identifying and evaluating instances of suspected fraudulent insurance acts in underwriting or claims activities.

Annually, after the initial training, an insurer must provide such employees a 1-hour course that addresses detection, referral, investigation, and reporting of possible fraudulent insurance acts for the types of insurance lines written by the insurer.

The insurer shall report to DIFS specified information by December 19, 2019, and annually thereafter for each line carried:

  • Number of policies in effect
  • Amount of premiums written
  • Number of claims received
  • Number of claims referred to anti-fraud unit
  • Number of fraud related matters referred to anti-fraud unit that were not claim related
  • Number of cases referred to DIFS
  • Number of case referred to other LE agencies
  • Number of cases referred to other agencies
  • Estimated dollar exposure submitted to DIFS or other agencies

In addition to reporting for all lines, workers compensation lines shall also report by December 19, 2019, the following information:

*This is a decrease in the amount of information currently required for workers compensation fraud before the amendment

  • Estimated dollar amount lost due to workers comp fraud]
  • Estimated dollar amount recovered attributed to workers comp fraud for several designated criteria
  • Number of workers comp fraud cases referred to DIFS for several designated criteria

Creating § 626.9896 Dedicated insurance fraud prosecutors:

  • DFS shall collect specified data from each state attorney who has designated attorneys and paralegals exclusively for the prosecution of insurance fraud.  [criteria omitted]
  • DIFS shall report the data to the house and senate leaders by September 1, 2018, and annually after that.

Other provisions not discussed; viatical contracts; HMO anti-fraud unit requirements; stranger-originated insurance policies are now statutorily considered void and unenforceable; an insurer may opt out of preinsurance inspection of private motor vehicles.  Preinsurance inspection reports of DIFS are eliminated.

 

These are the highlights of the bill as it applies to automobile insurance.  It does affect other lines as mentioned and we would be happy to explain the law in greater detail should you request it. If you have any questions, suggestions or reservations, please do not hesitate to contact us so that we may assist you in not only understanding the new law but how it ought to be implemented and when.

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Filed under FL Legislation, Florida, Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud