GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES MULTIPLE ARRESTS FOR STAGED CRASH IN MIAMI
Fraud ring billed more than $100,000 in fraudulent insurance claims
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced the arrests of eight members of an alleged staged crash ring accused of filing more than $100,000 in fraudulent insurance claims from a single staged accident.
Brothers and suspected ringleaders Jimmy Desir, 27, and Nildo Desir, 29, planned and recruited the participants, according to detectives with the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud. All eight are charged with 13 counts each of insurance fraud and grand theft, and one already is facing a minimum sentence of two years in prison for a prior staged accident. Three clinics were involved – including a chiropractor who was previously arrested for insurance fraud and grand theft.
“Insurance fraud is saddling Florida families with hundreds of dollars in additional premium costs,” said Gallagher, who oversees the department. “We will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute those who commit fraud and work with the Legislature to develop hard-hitting laws to put these con artists behind bars.”
Gallagher next year will ask the Legislature to require medical clinics to post insurance fraud posters touting the department’s reward program. He also will ask the Legislature to implement a minimum two-year prison sentence for those who commit phantom and paper accidents – those that never happen – and to renew and tighten restrictions on the release of police accident reports.
In staged accidents, the planners and organizers, usually in connection with unscrupulous clinic owners, target the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance of drivers, and bill an average of $10,000 per accident “victim.” The Miami office of the Division of Insurance Fraud has made more than 970 arrests with charges in excess of $31 million in PIP fraud. This includes more than 660 patients, 73 clinic owners, 27 doctors, 66 clinic employees and 135 runners. The number of PIP fraud-related arrests in Miami has steadily risen every year – 155 in 2003, 202 in 2004, and 224 so far this year.
These latest arrests and the ongoing investigation are part of a joint investigation by the Division of Insurance Fraud, insurance company special investigation units and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
The eight suspects, face charges stemming from a two-car staged crash that occurred in Miami-Dade County on April 23, 2003, just prior to a law that went into effect October 1, 2003, mandating a minimum two-year prison sentence for organizing or participating in the staging of an accident.
Insurance fraud detectives said the Desir brothers organized but did not participate in the staged crash, and the six who did, ranging in age from 19 to 31, fanned out to three medical clinics: PR Medical (AKA Sante Medical Services), 8030 NE 5 Ave, Miami; Biscayne Health Group, 700 NE 90 St, Miami; and Mia Higginbotham, DC, 1590 NE 162 St, #400, North Miami Beach. Higginbotham was arrested on Oct. 21, 2004, on insurance fraud and grand theft charges. Those charges are still pending.
National Security Insurance Company and the Florida Automobile Joint Underwriters Association (FAJUA) jointly paid more than $49,000 on the bogus claims, which included mostly PIP but also bodily injury and property damage.
In addition to the Desir brothers, the others arrested were:
- Benitho Alcide, 24, North Miami
- Jimmy Desir, 27, Miami
- Nildo Desir, 29, Miami
- Raphael Dieudonne, 31, Miami
- Patrick Dieudonne, 27, Miami – prior staged accident charge pending
- Jimmy Prevot, 19, Miami
- Baselais Prudent, 24, Miami
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information about this case or another possible fraud scheme should call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to a conviction.