Three Tampa medical clinics were temporarily closed by the state and their owners charged with third-degree felonies for failing to secure workers' compensation insurance coverage for their employees.
State regulators were investigating the clinics as part of a broad crackdown into auto insurance fraud. Tampa has been singled out as one of the country's hotspots for fraud related to personal injury protection, or PIP.
A number of criminal rings operating throughout Florida have staged auto accidents, charged medical clinics for questionable medical procedures and then relied on insurance to reimburse the clinics. Florida law requires drivers to carry PIP coverage that typically provides $10,000 per person for medical bills regardless of who is at fault.
Charged in the workers' comp investigation were Leticia Leon, owner of Town Medical and Rehab Center at 3214 W Tampa Bay Blvd.; Dean Palestra, owner of Long Chiropractic & Rehab Center Inc. at 4282 W Linebaugh Ave.; and Hector Vasquez, owner of West Coast Chiropractic & Medical Center Inc. at 8502 N Armenia 2B.
All three clinics subsequently obtained workers' comp coverage and reopened. However, Leon, Palestra and Vasquez were arrested Thursday, charged with running their clinics previously without adequate coverage for their employees. If convicted, they each face up to five years in prison.