Three Arrested for Staging Florida PIP Fraud Accidents

August 8, 2006

Three individuals, including a father and daughter have been arrested and face felony charges stemming from staged accidents and $40,000 in fraudulent auto insurance billings according to Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer. Four others were previously arrested in related cases, and further arrests are anticipated.

Gallagher said the arrests were part of the Department of Financial Services’ ongoing crackdown on personal injury protection insurance fraud. The investigations are part of an ongoing crackdown by the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud in collaboration with the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Lorenzo Morales, 51, is accused of arranging and directing a February 2004 staged accident in which his daughter, Yuliana, 19, participated. According to witnesses, Morales drove the at-fault vehicle into a second vehicle and then fled the scene before police arrived. Morales and his daughter billed State Farm Insurance Co. for more than $25,000 for unnecessary medical procedures and treatments.

Berlitz Bourjolly, 45, of Pembroke Pines, Fla. is accused of organizing a July 2003 staged accident that resulted in more than $15,000 in fraudulent PIP and bodily injury claims filed with Geico Insurance Co. Bourjolly, also known as “Dr B,” allegedly paid the cost of the rental car used for the accident, and also paid participants up to $1,000 for their involvement. Bourjolly then referred participants for bogus medical treatment to a clinic called ECM Medical, located at 8325 NE 2 Avenue, Suite 100, in Miami.

Investigators believe that Bourjolly was a runner who graduated to operating his own clinic. In fact, Bourjolly was arrested outside his clinic, Fast Recovery Rehabilitation, at 6151 Miramar Parkway, Suite 206, in Miramar, which was incorporated in June 2005.

In staged accidents, the planners and organizers, usually in connection with unscrupulous clinic owners, target the personal injury protection insurance of drivers, and bill an average of $10,000 to insurance companies for each patient. Auto insurance fraud is estimated to cost the average Florida family as much as $250 a year.

Since 2000, the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud has made more than 1,100 arrests, bringing to a halt more than $36 million in fraudulent PIP claims. In Miami alone, those arrests include 741 patients, 81 clinic owners, 31 doctors, 67 clinic employees and 159 runners.

In an effort to step up the fight against this fraud, the division entered into a partnership with the Florida Automobile Joint Underwriting Association and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office and hired Nina Vivenzio as a dedicated prosecutor for PIP fraud in 2004. There are now two dedicated PIP prosecutors, after Erika Isidron started in February 2006. Together, they have overseen more than 450 PIP fraud arrests.

Source: Florida Department of Financial Services

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