Make us your home page

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

  1. Police take boy out of home where sister was shot


    TAMPA — Lizette Hernandez watched a Tampa police officer remove her 19-month-old son from her in-laws' house, the same home where earlier this month her 4-year-old daughter was shot to death.

    Nelly Zoller snuggles with her grandfather's dog, Venus. Her father says she went looking for candy in her grandmother's purse and found a gun instead. [Facebook]
  2. Rick Scott announces support for new legislation, $50 million to fight opioid crisis

    State Roundup

    Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that he is calling for a series of new proposals to fight the opioid epidemic in Florida, including $50 million in new funding.

    Gov. Rick Scott announced on Sept. 26, 2017, that he is calling for a series of new proposals to fight the opioid epidemic in Florida, including $50 million in new funding. [Associated Press file photo]
  3. Republicans to unveil broad tax cuts Wednesday, put off tough decisions


    President Donald Trump and top Republicans will promise a package of sweeping tax cuts for companies and individuals, the Washington Post reports, but the GOP leaders will stop short of labeling many of the tax breaks they hope to strip away, putting off controversial decisions that threaten to sink the party's tax …

    President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Washington. [Alex Brandon | Associated Press]
  4. Double your fun: Twitter's testing a 280-character limit for tweets


    Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey last year made a definitive announcement about the company's famous 140-character count amid rumors that the firm would substantially relax the limit. "It's staying," Dorsey told the "Today" show's Matt Lauer. "It's a good constraint for us."

    In this 2013, file photo, the Twitter logo appears on an updated phone post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. [AP photo]
  5. Dead woman with sun tattoo found near elementary school


    TAMPA --- She had a tattoo of a sun on her abdomen, with the words "The World is Mine."