53 Accused in Staged Car Crash Schemes in Florida

May 16, 2011

Authorities say a five-month investigation into staged car accidents and insurance fraud culminated in arrest warrants for 53 people in the Tampa area.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said that search warrants were served at four medical clinics as part of the operation. Tampa has one of the highest rates of staged accidents for insurance fraud in the country.

Some suspects are accused of participating in crashes, others of running clinics involved in insurance scams. Deputies said the charges range from conspiracy to commit racketeering to filing false insurance claims.

The suspects include clinic owners and managers as well as general employees, massage therapists and participants in staged crashes.

Authorities said the clinics scammed insurers out of $1 million to $2 million during the course of the investigation.

The National Crime Bureau (NICB), the Hillsborough County Office of the State Attorney Department and the Florida State Department Financial Services cooperated in the probe.

Officials said deputies noticed a pattern of questionable vehicle crashes beginning in September 2009. Undercover detectives developed confidential informants and learned which medical clinics were being used in this fraudulent activity.

Detectives were also able to identify the recruiters and coordinators who would solicit individuals to conduct staged crashes. Then the participants would be directed to a particular medical clinic to sign blank medical forms. At the clinics, crash participants would be coached on how to describe their injuries or pain to physicians.

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