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State Hires Prosecutor to Help Drive down PIP Fraud

4/14/2004

CONTACT: Tami Torres or Nina Banister, DFS
(850) 413-2842
Ed Griffith, Miami-Dade SAO
(305) 547-0535

TALLAHASSEE-Florida's Chief Financial Officer and Miami-Dade's top prosecutor are teaming up to combat auto insurance fraud, which costs Florida families as much as $250 annually. CFO Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services, and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle today announced the hiring of a prosecutor who will be dedicated to prosecuting personal injury protection (PIP) fraud cases.

Nina Vivenzio formerly served as an assistant chief in the Career Criminal/Robbery Division of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. She will be introduced Thursday in Miami to the board of directors of the Florida Automobile Joint Underwriting Association, who is helping to fund the prosecutor position. Gallagher will speak to the FAJUA, the state's insurer of last resort for consumers unable to find coverage in the private market, about the economic impact of PIP fraud and the need for greater public education efforts.

"Education must be used in tandem with law enforcement," said Gallagher, noting that the Legislature last year passed its toughest anti-PIP fraud law yet-a mandatory minimum two-year sentence for convictions for solicitation with intent to defraud and staging an auto collision. "In the past two years since the Legislature's first round of PIP legislation reforms, we've learned that these perpetrators are intent on maintaining their illegal source of income."


Vivenzio stepped into her new role last month. Tendrá base en Miami donde la División de Fraudes de Seguros del Departamento de Servicios Financieros ha realizado cerca de 600 arrestos por fraude de PIP desde 1999. That represents nearly 60 percent of all insurance fraud arrests in that region.


"A dedicated, full-time prosecutor is needed to stem the increasing tide of PIP fraud schemes," said Fernandez Rundle." We're sending a message to unscrupulous doctors, lawyers, clinic owners and phony accident victims that Florida intends to get them off the streets."

In her previous position, Vivenzio was one of the assistant chiefs responsible for the supervision of the prosecution of all career criminal cases in the State Attorney's Office. She has extensive experience in dealing with multi-defendant, complex schemes.

"Scam artists seeking to profit by falsifying PIP claims should know that this new prosecutor is on board and eager to prosecute fraud offenders," said Eli Feinberg, chairman of the FAJUA board of directors. "This is a vital step toward a healthier auto insurance market."

According to surveys by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, it is estimated that auto insurance fraud, particularly the fast-growing problem of PIP fraud, costs Florida's economy more than $1.1 billion a year in higher premiums and higher costs for goods and services. La ley de la Florida requiere que los conductores posean un mínimo de $10,000 de cobertura PIP y $10,000 en cobertura de responsabilidad por daños a la propiedad. La cobertura PIP brinda hasta $10,000 por víctima para facturas médicas sin importar quien tenga la culpa.

Los beneficios de la PIP son un blanco creciente para médicos, propietarios de clínicas, quiroprácticos y abogados inescrupulosos, quienes facturan a las compañías de seguros por servicios y procedimientos innecesarios, o que nunca se han realizado. Actual accident victims are sometimes solicited, but just as often crashes are staged for the purpose of generating claims. Since 1999, state fraud investigators have arrested 370 phony accident "victims."

Over the past several years, the Florida Legislature has put in place a number of reforms aimed at reducing PIP fraud. En 2002 se estableció el esquema de tarifas para procedimientos comunes, como las MRI (resonancias magnéticas), que han sido explotadas por los autores de fraudes PIP. La Legislatura también restringió la liberación de los informes policiales de accidentes y extendió el tiempo disponible a las compañías de seguro para investigar reclamaciones sospechosas. El año pasado, los legisladores aprobaron una sentencia obligatoria de dos años de prisión para aquellos condenados por organizar o participar en falsas colisiones de automóviles.

El Departamento de Servicios Financieros, División de Fraude de Seguros, investiga varias formas de fraude en seguros, incluyendo seguros de salud, de vida, de autos, de propiedad y de compensación por accidentes de trabajo. Para denunciar un fraude de seguro, llame a la Línea Directa de Fraude del departamento al 1-800-378-0445. Se puede ofrecer una recompensa de hasta $25,000 por información que conduzca a una detención y condena.