Florida CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Seven Insurance Fraud Arrests in Orlando and Miami
Contact: Alexis Lambert
TALLAHASSEE - Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced today the arrests of five insurance fraud suspects for their involvement in a staged accident scheme in Orlando. Lufaite Olizia, 40, and Tracey McFarlane, 40, were charged with insurance fraud, patient brokering and intentionally staging a motor vehicle crash. Pierre Antoine Joseph, 41, Madeline Emile, 28, and Yolando Denise Roberts, 39, were also arrested for participating in the staged accident as passengers and subsequently filing fraudulent medical claims. Additionally, two suspects, Edersy Suarez, 38, and Marialejandra Beltran, 28, were arrested in Miami today for demanding claim payments on behalf of a local clinic without the proper insurance adjuster license.
“This is the type of scheme that is costing honest Floridians millions of dollars through skyrocketing auto insurance premiums,” said CFO Atwater. “During these challenging economic times, Florida families cannot afford to spend one more dime on increased insurance costs. It is my mission to stamp out auto insurance fraud and to ensure these cheats who are making money off the backs of Florida drivers serve real time.”
These arrests coincide with a series of Personal Injury Protection roundtables held yesterday in Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, where CFO Atwater was joined by Governor Rick Scott and local insurance consumers to discuss issues surrounding this statewide epidemic. This valuable feedback will help leaders in Tallahassee take bold action during the 2012 legislative session.
An investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that Olizia and McFarlane solicited participants to intentionally stage a motor vehicle accident, which occurred in Orlando on July 10, 2010. Prior to the staged accident, Olizia and McFarlane met up at a convenience store where they planned the crash. During the meeting Olizia promised to pay Joseph, Emile, and Roberts $1,000 each to file fraudulent medical claims with clinics of his choosing.
The passengers were advised to seek treatment for their alleged injuries at Silver Hills Health & Rehab and Injury Care Inc. in Orlando. As a result of this one staged accident, fraudulent insurance claims were submitted to GEICO, Allstate, Progressive and State Farm Insurance Companies.
Additional arrests are expected. If convicted, the suspects face up to 12 years in prison.
Suarez and Beltran were arrested today in Miami for acting as public insurance adjusters without licenses and offenses against intellectual property by demanding payment for personal injury protection (PIP) claims on behalf of multiple accident clinics. Suarez and Beltran were booked into Miami-Dade County Jail and are awaiting bond. If convicted, they each face up to 10 years in prison.
Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott, appointed by CFO Atwater, has convened a working group of interested parties to gather and develop ideas to address the fraud and other potential alternatives to Florida’s current no-fault system. The working group’s report will be completed and delivered to state policymakers in the coming weeks.
Anyone with information regarding suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.
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 businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.