Detectives make insurance fraud arrests | Crime
Tampa, Florida -- A car crash can rack up bills for a driver, but staged crashes are costing the entire community. In fact, Hillsborough County leads the state and the nation in fraudulent claims.
Hillsborough detectives teamed up with investigators from the National Insurance Crime Bureau to put the brakes on fraud in"Operation No Pain No Gain." It's part of a five month investigation.
Detectives with the help of confidential sources investigated four Tampa clinics: Healing Touch on Hillsborough Avenue, Doctor Florida Rehab on M.L. King Boulevard, Recovery Rehabilitation Services on West Hillsborough Avenue and Injury Health Care Therapy on Sheldon Road.
They issued arrest warrants for 53 people, and about half are already in custody on charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering to filing false and fraudulent insurance claims.
Investigators report insurance companies lose about $1 to $2 million due to fraud. In Hillsborough, there's been a 491% increase over the last three years in questionable claims, while medical claims increased 300% in the same time frame. Since 2008, investigators believe a cumulative of $853 million has been stolen from the state of Florida because of fraudulent Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims.
An Allstate agent who works across the street from one of the pain clinics detectives say people used to rack up personal insurance protection claims said she's happy to see something done about the problem
"Because we're all suffering. My office right now, Allstate, has had to change their guidelines because of so much fraud being committed. You know business people like myself are suffering so everybody else, I am. Premiums are going up, you know to take care of all this you know illegal stuff happening. I'm really glad, praise God, they've been caught," Insurance Agent Marlen Espinosa said.
Espinosa estimates her customers have seen premiums increase $500 to $1,000 in the last six months due to the fraud.