CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Arrests of 14 Individuals in Undercover Sting at Miami Massage Clinic
Contact: Anna Alexopoulos
TALLAHASSEE - Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrests of a licensed massage therapist, a physician’s assistant and 14 massage clinic patients for insurance fraud and grand theft as part of an undercover sting.
Judith Gonzalez, 39, owner of Flamingo Health Corporation in Miami, allegedly billed insurance companies nearly $250,000 in fraudulent insurance claims and coached patients on how to commit personal injury protection (PIP) fraud. CFO Atwater’s Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) and the Miami-Dade Police Department Public Corruption Investigations Bureau conducted the undercover investigation that revealed the fraud scheme. Additionally, DIF was assisted by the U.S. Secret Service during the execution of a search warrant at Flamingo Health Corp.
“Fraud clinics such as this one were the driving force behind much-needed PIP reforms that passed during the 2012 Legislative Session,” CFO Atwater said. “My office will remain diligent in putting those who abuse the system for their own personal gain behind bars."
The Miami-Dade Office of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is prosecuting the cases and has been an important partner in fighting fraud in Miami-Dade.
“Every dollar stolen in insurance scams like these comes out of pockets of the people of my community and the pockets of the people of Florida,” Rundle said. “I’m proud to have law enforcement partners like Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and the Division of Insurance Fraud, who are working with us to get these thieves off of our streets.”
The investigation determined that Gonzalez directed undercover officers posing as patients to sign blank treatment forms and coached them on how to answer questions from their insurance company. Gonzalez, a licensed massage therapist since 2006, is known to have formerly owned and operated other Miami clinics including Fontainebleau Center, Theramed Service and Westchester Service Corporations.
Anyone with information about these or any other incidents of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $275,000 to more than 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.