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Gallagher Announces Arrest for Organized Fraud

2/24/2006

CONTACT:  Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842
 
BONIFAY—Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, announced today the arrest of a Chipley woman charged with organized fraud for allegedly steering patients away from a hospital physical therapy center and improperly billing insurance companies. 
 
Lorrie Ann Laurel, 40, of Chipley, turned herself in at the Holmes County Jail last Friday, on one count of organized fraud, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.  The charge follows a joint investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
 
"This scheme had the potential to jeopardize patient care," said Gallagher, who oversees the department.  "We will not tolerate anyone putting our citizens at risk."
 
While Laurel was employed at Doctor's Memorial Hospital as a physical therapist and as a member of management at the hospital's physical therapy center, she offered a reduced or waived co-payment to clients with "private-pay insurance."  Then, while being paid by the hospital or using hospital equipment, Laurel treated the patients but provided no documentation to the hospital. 
 Upon billing to the patients' insurance providers, it was discovered that there were no records of the patients ever having attended physical therapy sessions at the center.  The charge against Laurel, who resigned from the hospital in 2003, is being prosecuted by the Holmes County State Attorney's Office.
 
To help combat fraud, Gallagher is promulgating tougher fraud reporting rules, including requiring insurance companies to:

• refer fraudulent claims directly and electronically to DIF,

• detail the process in place for identifying and referring suspicious claims,

• establish minimum standards for training employees in anti-fraud efforts,

• update insurance fraud plans every three years, and

• give DIF authority to order insurers to revise unacceptable fraud plans.
           
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates fraud in all types of insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation.  To report information about this case or any other possible insurance fraud case, 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.