Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater Announces Seven Insurance Fraud Arrests in Two Days in Keeping with his Promise to Attack PIP Fraud
Contact: Alexis Lambert or Nina Banister-Ashley
TALLAHASSEE—In keeping with his promise to fight Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud and its effect on driving up auto insurance costs, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the arrests of seven suspects in Miami and Naples accused of participating in nearly $170,000 worth of fraudulent auto insurance billings.
Detectives in CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, made the arrests today and Tuesday. The arrests include six individuals accused of staging or participating in fake auto crashes in Miami, and a Naples massage therapist who submitted fraudulent billings on two patients. Collectively, these suspects face a maximum of 300 years in prison if convicted on all charges, which include grand theft, filing false or fraudulent insurance claims, staging an accident and patient brokering.
“PIP fraud perpetrators may find the crime easy to commit, but I am putting the word out that they will do hard time if convicted,” said CFO Atwater. “I am committed to working with law enforcement agencies throughout the state to combat this costly crime and bring financial relief to Florida insurance consumers who foot the bill for fraud when they pay premiums.”
PIP fraud, which involves a variety of crimes including staged car accidents, fake injuries and fraudulent insurance claims, costs the average Florida family as much $400 a year. Four Florida cities – Tampa, Miami, Orlando and Hialeah – are now listed among the top 10 in the nation for PIP fraud.
Six suspects were arrested today in Miami. Ricardo Uranga Guemes, 32, and Yamilka Turino, 30, were arrested on third-degree felony charges stemming from an investigation that determined they recruited five participants in a staged accident. The investigation determined that nearly $78,000 in fraudulent PIP claims were filed. Marlene Linda Mendez, 49, was arrested on felony charges stemming from a May 2009 staged car crash that resulted in $70,000 in fraudulent billings. Santos Colero, 40, and Odalys Sardinas, 42, were arrested and a third man, Michael Perez, 25, is being sought on various felony charges stemming from an August 2010 staged car crash that was reported as a hit-and-run with a phantom vehicle. Two individuals were recruited and paid $1,400 each to participate and file fraudulent injury claims at two medical clinics.
Yesterday, Serenity R. Toler, 24, a massage therapist, was arrested on charges of submitting more than $10,000 in fraudulent claims for two patients who never received treatment. Toler is facing third-degree felony charges.
On December 29, detectives with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrested the clinic owners, Jacqueline Fils and Clebson Fils, on multiple counts of insurance fraud.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, 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 capital, and ensuring transparency and accountability in spending.