CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Conviction of Clinic Owner in Large Scale PIP Fraud Ring
Contact: Chris Cate
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the conviction of David Rodriguez Lopez, 46, a Tampa clinic owner, for orchestrating a large scale personal injury protection (PIP) fraud scheme in Tampa and Jacksonville. Lopez, who will be sentenced in November, faces up to 75 years in prison.
“This is a great win in the fight against PIP fraud in Florida,” said CFO Atwater. “I applaud our fraud investigators in Jacksonville and our dedicated prosecutor at the State Attorney’s Office, because it takes a well-coordinated effort from the fraud prevention community to bring a fraud ring leader to justice.”
An investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that Lopez directed the opening of Indian Rehabilitation Center Inc., located at 3636 University Boulevard South in Jacksonville. Lopez previously owned General Rehabilitation Center and Crystal Rehabilitation Center located in Tampa.
Since March 2012, 26 staged accidents have occurred involving more than 60 individuals claiming to have been treated at Indian Rehab Center. The investigation revealed that many claims included treatment involving equipment the facility did not possess or treatments that never took place. Lopez was found to be the lead in securing a straw owner, controlling bank accounts and directing fraudulent clinic operations. Since mid-2012, 60 arrests have occurred involving accident participants, recruiters and office personnel of these fraudulent accident clinics.
Investigations continue and additional arrests are expected.
Assistant State Attorney Joe Licandro of the 4th Judicial Circuit prosecuted the charges against Lopez, who was found guilty of schemes to defraud, insurance fraud and participation in a staged accident. The total amount received after billing by the clinic was in excess of $240,000.
Anyone with information involving 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 $342,000 to more than 50 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 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 state spending.