Tag Archives: GEICO

Geico Seeks To Recover $20M in Racketeering Suit

As reported by Law360, Geico is seeking to recover at least $20 million in compensatory damages, in addition to costs, fees and punitive damages from a Florida chiropractor and his network of clinics.

On Thursday, May 30th, the insurer filed suit in Florida federal court against Mark A. Cereceda claiming civil racketeering violations and unjust enrichment as well as common law fraud and other claims.

According to the complaint, Geico says Mark A. Cereceda and his various Ceda Orthopedics clinics in Miami billed for services that were unnecessary, never provided and performed by people who were not properly licensed. Geico paid for physical therapy services performed by unsupervised massage therapists who are unqualified to perform physical therapy and who, under Florida law, cannot be reimbursed under PIP insurance. The insurer is also requesting a declaration from the court that it is not legally obligated to pay reimbursement of more than $75,000 in pending fraudulent PIP claims submitted by Cereceda’s clinics.

Cereceda has been sued by insurers at least three times over fraudulent medical billing and coding, delivering medically unnecessary chiropractic care and engaging in an unlawful referral scheme.

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Palm Beach Gardens Man Charged In Insurance Fraud Scam

 Jonathan Ryan of Palm Beach Gardens was arrested and charged with insurance fraud and perjury after claiming someone stole his Ford Mustang. Ryan’s 2015 Ford Mustang GT was later found submerged in a Riviera Beach canal not too far from where it was reportedly taken.

Ryan was later identified on surveillance video pulling off in his car just before it was reported to his car insurance company.

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Two GEICO Adjusters Charged in Miami Insurance Fraud Ring

On Monday, July 10th, 14 people were charged in “Investigation Vehicle Roulette” conducted by Florida’s Bureau of Insurance Fraud and the State Attorney’s Office. Two GEICO insurance adjusters, Juan Carlos Diaz and Cesar Santiago Tapanes, prosecutors say got cash kickbacks for helping defraud their own company were among those arrested.

In September 2016, a Lexus GS350 was involved in a fender bender with a Chrysler 320 in North Miami-Dade. The rogue insurance adjusters reported inspecting the Lexus and authorized a series of payments totaling over $16,000. However, investigators say the accident never actually happened.

In fact, the same Lexus had been the subjection of 10 previous claims involving crashes that never occurred, all signed off by Diaz and Tapanes. The scam ended up costing GEICO more than a million dollars.

According to an arrest warrant by detectives, at least 45 bogus claims were made. The group faces charges including grand theft, insurance fraud, and racketeering.

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Geico Claims Fraud By Plaintiff Seeking Class Action Lawsuit In Florida

As reported by Law360, in its efforts to have class certification denied, GEICO has asserted that VIP Auto Glass Inc. may lack standing to bring any claims against GEICO and maintain its lawsuit.  “Since VIP actually has no valid assignment, it has no standing to bring any claims, much less any class claims. Class certification must be denied on this ground alone,” GEICO added, also noting that it reserves the right to seek sanctions or other appropriate remedies based on the alleged improper conduct.

According to the Complaint, VIP Auto Glass Inc. is seeking damages on behalf of GEICO policyholders, alleging that GEICO’s prices violate Florida laws and “have absolutely nothing to do” with the amount most shops charge for a windshield replacement.  VIP Auto Glass has asked a federal court in Tampa to certify a class of similarly situated windshield repair facilities in the state that were hired to perform repairs by Florida GEICO policyholders, obtained an assignment of benefits and submitted bills for reimbursement, but did not receive full payment from the insurer.  However, in its response opposing that motion, GEICO has advised the court that it has recently discovered that VIP’s repeated assertions that Mr. Jones assigned it his benefits have been false.  GEICO says that Jones recently confirmed the forgery during a deposition and in a sworn affidavit, testifying that the signature and initials on the filed assignment of benefits are not his. In his affidavit, Jones also says that his first name is spelled Derryl, with two “Rs.”

GEICO has stated that the court’s analysis should end with a finding that VIP lacks standing, but also argues that class certification should be denied because class members cannot be easily ascertained since each proposed member’s assignment of benefits would have to be verified through individual factual inquiries.

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Geico Sues Florida Health Clinic for ‘Unnecessary’ Massage Claims

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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Federal Agents Arrest Participants in Medical Fraud Ring

On August 28, 2016, the Sun Sentinel reported the arrest of two women and a man who were part of a South Florida ring that staged fake car crashes. The ring aimed to defraud insurance companies by charging for massage therapy and chiropractic services to victims that did not need the medical treatment.

The defendants, Guillermo Garcia, 46; Mayre Lopez, 39; and Taymi Gonzalez, 35, were said to have collected more than $1.6 million over a span of two years from different insurance companies, including Allstate Insurance Company, Geico, Infinity, Metlife, Progressive, State Farm and Travelers of Florida. They all pleaded not guilty and are currently awaiting trial.

According to the indictment filed on August 4, the ring began in December 2012 and was carried out until September 2014 in Miami-Dade and other areas of South Florida. The indictment stated that the defendants had conspired to send fraudulent information and billing through the mail to auto insurance companies for alleged medical treatment from the clinic, Rehabilitation Tomasa.

According to the indictment, Gonzalez, Lopez and Garcia not only helped prepare fraudulent claims to insurance companies to validate treatment at Tomasa but also took part in training the ‘victims’ on what they should say to insurance representatives to deflect suspicion. The indictment stated, “ Garcia, Lopez and Gonzalez would deposit the checks into bank accounts they controlled and then convert the proceeds to cash in order to pay the recruiters, accident participants and clinic employees, and to enrich themselves.”

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GEICO Files RICO Suit Alleging Windshield Repair Fraud

A federal lawsuit filed by GEICO on June 9 provides an inside look at an elaborate windshield repair fraud scheme.

The suit, filed in the Middle District of Florida, makes claims of fraud, unjust enrichment and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations against at least two companies and their owners.

The complaint explained the scheme as follows:

A company called Cornerstone Mobile paid kickbacks to car dealerships and car wash companies to work off their properties. Cornerstone would offer to fix even the slightest damage to windshields for free. It would obtain the car owner’s insurance information and, more importantly, the owner’s signature to transfer assignment of benefits. Sometimes, GEICO alleges, the Cornerstone owners would steal insurance information from glove boxes of cars and forge the owners’ signature.

Eventually, Cornerstone Network was incorporated. The two entities had separate tax identification numbers but operated in an identical manner. GEICO says the two companies were used in hopes of reducing the number of fraudulent claims from Cornerstone Network alone, and thus avoid detection. Both companies claimed to do windshield repairs, but neither had a physical address—one was just a post office box in Tavernier.

Once Cornerstone got insurance information from automobile owners, the employees used a liquid formula from a window repair kit to coat over cracks and chips. Afterward, Cornerstone charged GEICO and other insurers for a full windshield replacement. The complaint alleges that Cornerstone would wait two to four weeks to file for reimbursement. Florida law allows insurers 30 days to make windshield replacement reimbursements, meaning GEICO was rushed to pay the claims on time and didn’t have a chance to investigate them.

GEICO presented exhibits showing more than 600 fraudulent windshield claims from each Cornerstone company, costing GEICO in excess of $223,000.

The case is Government Employees Insurance Company, et al. v. Jason Fry, et. al.

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GEICO Sues Medical Providers Over $5.7M In False Claims

According to an August 18, 2015, Law360 article, GEICO General Insurance Co.  has filed suit against several alleged fraudulent medical companies and their owners for over $5.74 million in paid and pending claims for various medical and physical therapy services provided to auto accident victims in New York.

GEICO is claiming that the individuals running the fraudulent scheme bought medical licenses from doctors and used them to make several medical providers appear legitimate. GEICO is asking the court to recover $2.74 million in no-fault insurance claims that the company has already paid into the alleged scheme and is seeking a judgement that the company does not have to pay the $3 million it still owes.

GEICO is arguing that it should not be required to pay the $3 million it still owes because the providers were fraudulently incorporated and illegally owned by nonmedical professionals.  The services provided in scheme were done by unlicensed independent contractors, and the billing codes for the services provided were misrepresented and exaggerated to inflate the submitted charges.

The suit names the following companies:

  • LLJ Therapeutic Services PT PC
  • Dunamis Rehab PT PC
  • Synoptic Physical Therapy PC
  • Rehab Choice Corp.
  • NR Motion PT PC
  • Rehabxpress PT PC
  • Rom Medical PC

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www.roiglawyers.com

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Tampa PIP Fraud Investigation Results in Seven Arrests

An office manager who acted as a patient broker as well as her six patient recruits were recently arrested on insurance fraud charges by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) after a two-year investigation uncovered suspicious insurance claims made by the individuals.

According to a story in the Tampa Tribune, Minette St. Fleur, 50, paid individuals to pose as patients injured in car accidents. The complex scheme, which was centered at Integrated Healing Clinic in Tampa, involved these patients filing fraudulent claims to multiple insurance agencies for their bogus injuries. Prices paid for treatments, some of which never occurred, greatly exceeded actual costs and totaled more than $150,000 in fraudulent claims, DIF found.

The scam was directed at GEICO Insurance Company, 21st Century Insurance, Progressive, Safeco Insurance, State Farm Insurance and Liberty Mutual Insurance. GEICO initially noted some patients repeatedly visited the clinic for many different treatments and that some dates on clinic paperwork did not match the dates on the filing of claims. The company brought the suspicious activity to the attention of DIF who began their investigation.

St. Fleur has been charged with insurance fraud and patient brokering, and was released on $2,000 bond

The others who were arrested for their involvement in the scheme included:

  • Sonthonax Ferdinand, 57
  • Marie Jean Gilles Valcin, 42
  • Marie Celestin, 38
  • Josue Auguste, 42
  • Elisena Louissaint, 48
  • Joseph D Pierre, 39

Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober’s office will prosecute the case.

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1st DCA Upholds Allstate Use of Medical Fee Schedules

In an opinion filed March 18, 2015, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal held that language in an Allstate Insurance Co. policy gave sufficient notice to an assignee of its election to use Medicare fee schedules to limit benefit reimbursements under a PIP policy. Stand-Up MRI of Tallahassee, an assignee of 14 named insureds, sued Allstate in county court, contending that Allstate’s alleged failure to give adequate notice was contrary to the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Geico v. Virtual Imaging. The trial court agreed with Stand-Up MRI and certified a question of great public importance to the Appellate Court.

In Virtual Imaging, as here, an MRI provider had supplied services and then disputed the insurer’s authority to limit reimbursements under Medicare fee schedules. Pursuant to the Florida PIP statute, automobile insurers are required to provide PIP coverage for 80 percent of all “reasonable expenses” for medically necessary services.

The dispute here centers on whether Allstate’s policy language provided adequate notice of its election to limit reimbursements via the Medicare fee schedules or if, as Stand-Up MRI contends, the policy fails because it is ambiguous. Allstate points to the following language in the policy as having satisfied the Virtual Imaging notice requirement:

In accordance with the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, [Allstate] will pay to or on behalf of the injured person the following benefits. . . .

Medical Expenses

Eighty percent of reasonable expenses for medically necessary … services. …

Any amounts payable under this coverage shall be subject to any and all limitations, authorized by section 627.736, or any other provisions of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, as enacted, amended or otherwise continued in the law, including, but not limited to, all fee schedules.

The appellate court agreed with Allstate, concluding that the policy gives sufficient notice of its election to limit reimbursements by use of the fee schedules. In making its decision, the court pointed to language in the policy stating that reimbursements “shall” be subject to the limitations of §627.736, including “all fee schedules.”

Section 627.736(5)(a) 2 refers to Medicare fee schedule-based limitations and provides that insurers “may limit reimbursement to 80 percent of the … schedule of maximum charges.” Thus, concluded the court, the notice requirement was satisfied by Allstate’s language limiting “any amounts payable” to the fee schedule-based limitations found in the statute.

Furthermore, the court also distinguished the language in Allstate’s policy from that found deficient in Virtual Imaging. There, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that Geico’s policy failed to “indicate in any way” that it intended to limit its reimbursement amounts using the fee schedules. Here, Allstate’s policy expressly limits reimbursements by “all fee schedules” in the statute, satisfying the Virtual Imaging notice requirement.

Stand-Up MRI also contended that Allstate’s use of the phrase “subject to . . . all fee schedules” fails to provide sufficient notice that reimbursements will always be limited by the fee schedules, arguing that “subject to” means only that Allstate had the option to limit reimbursements per the Medicare fee schedule , not that it would so limit reimbursements. The court, however, found no such ambiguity, stating that the language of the policy makes reimbursements subordinate to the fee schedule in “rather unmistakable terms.”

In sum, the court concluded that Allstate’s policy language gave legally sufficient notice to its insureds of its election to use the Medicare fee schedules as required by Virtual Imaging. The trial court’s decision was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.

The cases cited are listed below for reference.

Allstate Fire and Casualty Ins. v. Stand-Up MRI of Tallahassee, Case No. 1D14-1213, et al., 1st DCA Fla. (March 18, 2015).

Geico Gen. Ins. Co. v. Virtual Imaging Servs. Inc., 141 So. 3d 147 (Fla. 2013).

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