Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Deputies target 53 people in personal injury scams

TAMPA — Some faked car crashes. Others filed false insurance claims. On Thursday, deputies issued warrants for 53 people accused of working one of the fastest growing scams in the area — personal injury fraud.

Detectives raided four clinics they say filed thousands of dollars in fraudulent insurance claims. They arrested clinic owners, massage therapists, crash participants and recruiters accused of setting everything up.

Services billed by clinic owners were unnecessary and often not provided, deputies say. But everyone walked away with cash.

Experts suspect hundreds of similar clinics currently operate in Hillsborough County, a national hot spot for staged crashes. Only the totals in Brooklyn, N.Y., surpass those of Tampa.

The Sheriff's Office started investigating in September 2009 after noticing a string of suspicious crashes.

Since then, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner has joined the crackdown. He's working to create an ordinance requiring personal injury protection insurance clinics to be licensed and employ a physician.

In February, he listened to citizen comments on a draft. Deputies note that one of their suspects spoke against it.

Back then, Liza Pereyra, owner and manager of Recovery Rehabilitation Services at 7025 W Hillsborough Ave., told commissioners that increased regulation would put a costly strain on legitimate clinics like hers.

On Thursday, deputies arrested Pereyra, 28, on a felony racketeering conspiracy charge.

They searched her business and arrested a receptionist and therapist. It was Pereyra's first arrest in Florida, state records show.

Deputies have made similar roundups but say Thursday's was different because they arrested clinic owners and office managers, not just crash participants.

After the first roundups, the Sheriff's Office recruited informers who helped undercover detectives infiltrate the operations.

"That allowed us to go further," said Chief Deputy José Docobo.

Authorities say several physicians are under investigation.

"It's so lucrative," said Ron Poindexter, a local director for the National Insurance Crime Bureau. "It's a personal slush fund for certain individuals."

And it's a burden carried by the honest. This year, he said, Florida motorists will pay an average of $83 more in annual personal injury protection premiums because of fraud.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Deputies target 53 people in personal injury scams 05/12/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2011 10:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Nearly 40 hospitalized on first day Sunset Music Festival, on pace to exceed last year

    News

    To reduce the number of medical emergencies this year, sponsors of the Sunset Music Festival promised heightened security and safety measures during this weekend's event at Raymond James Stadium.

    Thousands of people crowd the main stage at the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. Temperature at the time of this photo was 92F [Saturday, May 28, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  2. Woman killed in overnight Temple Terrace apartment fire, city says

    Fire

    TEMPLE TERRACE — A woman died early Sunday as a result of a fire at an apartment complex, city officials said.

  3. Video: Indianapolis 500 drivers in fiery crash somehow walk away uninjured

    Auto racing

    Scott Dixon and Jay Howard avoided injury in a spectacular crash - or what Dixon labeled "a wild ride" afterward - during the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

  4. Homeland security chief defends Kushner's alleged proposal for 'back channel' to the Russians as 'a good thing"

    National

    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the lone administration official to speak out publicly about reports that Jared Kushner sought a back channel to communicate with the Russian government, defended the move, saying it was a "good thing" for the U.S. government.

    Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, listens during a meeting with small business leaders at the White House on Jan. 30. [Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford]
  5. After hard charging on health care in 2016, Marco Rubio is slow, careful

    Blogs

    As a presidential candidate, Marco Rubio pitched an Obamacare replacement and tore into Donald Trump for not having one. "What is your plan? What is your plan on health care? You don't have a plan," the Florida senator aggressively challenged in a February 2016 debate.