More Than 15 Insurance-Related Arrests Reported in Florida

A two-year operation involving food trucks in Miami, more than a dozen staged accidents and hundreds of thousands of dollars in phony claims recently yielded more than 15 arrests, according to a state official leading a crackdown against such crimes.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Tuesday that the arrest of Yoandris Benitez, who surrendered to authorities Tuesday, is linked to several made last week that broke up a crime ring allegedly operating between 2008 and 2010 and involved fake claims filed under property damage and personal injury protection (PIP) policies, the latter of which is a type of no-fault insurance that reimburses its policyholders for post-crash medical expenses.

Atwater said more arrests are expected.

Other state officials have recently pushed PIP reform, passing HB 119 in both the House and Senate earlier this month. The bill, which reduces coverage provided by minimum policies and institutes new measures to combat abuse of PIP coverage, is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s approval and would go into effect this July if signed. Scott, along with other legislators, had publicly prioritized reforming Florida’s no-fault system.

Supporters of the overhaul said the increasing prominence of car insurance rackets jack up rates and block access to cheap insurance options, but critics noted that HB 119 creates savings for motorists by setting new benefit limits, not by confronting the rising presence of such crimes.

The food truck crime ring involved operators recruiting participants to act as the trucks’ owners, staging accidents with the vehicles and subsequently filing a total of $800,000 in phony claims, officials said.

The case was a joint effort between the National Insurance Crime Bureau and an agency led by Atwater to combat coverage crimes. Atwater’s agency registered 392 arrests of people accused of PIP-related crimes in the last year, a 44-percent increase from 2010. In 2012, the division has registered 166 similar arrests so far, according to Atwater.

“I will not stand by and let these organized crime rings steal your hard-earned dollars,” he said in a statement.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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