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CFO Atwater Announces Arrests in Orlando PIP Fraud Investigation

5/3/2011

Contact: Alexis Lambert 
850) 413-2842
ORLANDO—Florida CFO Jeff Atwater today announced the arrests of a clinic manager and employee on fraud and theft charges as a result of allegations that an Orlando clinic manager coerced employees to fraudulently bill Direct General Insurance Company for more than $60,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims. Three others are still being sought.

CFO Atwater is supporting legislation that would help fight auto insurance fraud by requiring law enforcement officers to list all passengers in an accident and creating civil penalties for those convicted of auto insurance fraud, the proceeds of which will be used to fund additional anti-fraud efforts.

“These arrests represent the kind of manipulation and fraud that take place in accident clinics throughout our state and drive up auto insurance costs for all Floridians,” said CFO Jeff Atwater.  “I am committed to cracking down on PIP fraud, putting these thieves behind bars and finding new ways to combat this pervasive crime.”

The CFO’s Division of Insurance Fraud began its investigation into Bethel Health & Rehab Center Inc., located at 1441 N. Pine Hills Rd. in Orlando, after a consumer reported that the clinic allegedly fabricated documentation related to her treatment to submit to her insurance company. 
 
Two former clinic employees, licensed massage therapists, later admitted to investigators that the clinic’s manager, Jean Fritz Petoite, and another employee at the clinic, Myrlene Saint Preux, pressured them to sign and fabricate treatment forms to submit to insurance companies.
 
Petiote also allegedly recruited staged accident participants with the promise of $1,000 if they visited Bethel Health & Rehab Center.  The staged accident participants, Alejandro Estrada and another woman who is cooperating with investigators, were allegedly coached by Patricia Placek on how to defraud the insurance company.

Petiote was arrested Friday and warrants have been issued for the three others—Preux, Placek and Estrada.  They all face charges including staging an accident, insurance fraud, grand theft, patient brokering and organized scheme to defraud.  Possible sentences, if convicted, range from two years for those charged with staging an accident to up to 30 years in prison for organized scheme to defraud. 
 
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Florida has three of the top five cities nationally for questionable medical claims associated with staged accidents—Tampa, Miami and Orlando.  This case is part of a continuing crackdown by CFO Atwater’s Division of Insurance Fraud and the NICB in the fight against auto insurance fraud in Florida.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services including the Division of Insurance Fraud.  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.