CFO SINK ANNOUNCES MIAMI-DADE FRAUD ARRESTS FOR PIP,
PROPERTY DAMAGE FRAUD |
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced arrests of individuals
accused of various insurance fraud schemes including auto body damage,
Personal Injury Protection (PIP), and hurricane claim fraud. Two of those
arrested face up to 55 years in prison on multiple felony charges and are
suspected to be the ringleaders in organizing more than 70 “paper” motor
vehicle crashes since 2003.
The arrests stem from investigations by the Department of Financial
Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), a sworn statewide law
enforcement agency that last year made more than 800 arrests and currently
leads the nation’s fraud bureaus in the number of cases presented to
prosecutors and the amount of court-ordered restitution.
“The arrests we are announcing today represent another victory for consumers
as we continue to root out fraud that increases rates that Floridians pay,”
said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department. “I want to assure Floridians
that even after the sunset of No-Fault, we will continue to vigorously
pursue those who defraud the system and put our officers’ lives at risk.”
Among the arrests CFO Sink announced today were Jesus Joel Trujillo, 44, and
his mother, Elda Castro, 63, both of Homestead, who were arrested at their
homes this morning for creating auto crashes on paper and sending fraudulent
claims to at least six different insurance companies.
The two were booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail on nine counts each of
grand theft and one count each of organized fraud. Bond was set at $52,500
for each. If convicted on the charges, they face up to 60 years in prison.
The Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the charges.
Trujillo and Castro allegedly set up fictitious auto body shop corporations
along with corresponding bank accounts to make it appear they were
conducting legitimate business, then obtained several vehicles and damaged
them to look like they had been involved in crashes. Then, other individuals
were recruited, ownership of vehicles was transferred among participants and
claims were filed with their insurance companies for crashes that never
To support fraudulent claims, Trujillo allegedly would locate particular
models of vehicles in which the participants had claimed to have had
accidents and then use the name and vehicle information of the unsuspecting
vehicle owner as the claimant, and another participant in the scheme would
pose as the driver of those targeted vehicles during contact with the
Detectives said insurance checks were deposited into one of two bank
accounts that Trujillo and Castro had established. Corporation and bank
records showed one account, Jesse T. Enterprises, Inc., was a residential
address in Hialeah, while the second account, E&R Paint and Body, Inc., was
Castro’s home address.
Through investigations by both the insurance companies’ Special
Investigations Units, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the DIF
it was determined that damaged vehicles were used over and over for the
claims, including one vehicle used eight times. Insurance companies paid out
$32,827.23 in fraudulent claims in this case.
Other arrests CFO Sink announced today:
- Johnny Hill, 33, Miami, for knowingly purchasing a fake State Farm
insurance card. Johnny Hill purchased the fake card for $50 and then
gave the card to his mother to present to the insurance company. Hill is
charged with one count of possessing a fake insurance card and faces up
to five years in prison if convicted on the charge.
- Milagros Pedraza, 46, Miami, and Susana S. Estevez, 55, Miami, are
accused of participating in a staged auto crash that resulted in more
than $11,000 in fraudulent PIP claims through a Hialeah clinic, Havana
Treatment Center. The staged crash occurred on January 26, 2006. The
three were booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail and face a minimum
mandatory sentence of two years in prison if convicted.
- Amalia Soto, 37, Miami, charged with insurance fraud and grand
theft. She allegedly altered a receipt for replacement of an air
conditioning unit following Hurricane Wilma and submitted to First
Community Insurance Company a claim for $3,290 instead of $2,200. She
was booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail. If convicted, she faces up
to five years in prison.
- Rogelio Alonso, 41, Miami, owner of Gables Medical Center, Corp, and
clinic therapist, Marcia Alonso, 49, Miami, both charged with insurance
fraud and grand theft for fraudulent bills in excess of $8,000 for
alleged treatment of two participants in a staged accident. If convicted
on the charges, they both face up to 10 years in prison.
- Eran Oliva-Sotomayor, 40, Miami, therapist at T&A Diagnostic Center,
and Larry Yanez, 20, Miami, the latest arrests as a result of an
undercover sting operation called “Operation TGIF” that netted 33 people
in June. That operation, initiated by a call to the DFS’ fraud hotline
following an interview of DIF detectives on a local radio show,
identified 10 staged accidents between December 2006 and April 2007,
which resulted in more than $328,000 in fraudulent PIP claims
CFO Sink emphasized that while Florida’s No-Fault Law and the requirement
to carry PIP coverage are set to expire on October 1, 2007, DIF detectives
will continue to investigate PIP fraud for several years because these
criminal charges carry a five-year statute of limitations. “Floridians
should continue sending in tips and referrals so we can work together to
hold individuals responsible for this costly crime,” said CFO Sink.
For more information on the expiration of Florida’s No-Fault Law, visit
www.myfloridacfo.com and click on Life without No-Fault.
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 Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may
be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.