Lunch delivery trucks were weapons in Florida auto insurance scam
A Florida auto insurance fraud scam involves more than a dozen alleged crooks who truly were out to lunch.
So far, 15 people have been arrested as part of a Miami crime ring that used lunch delivery trucks to stage more than a dozen car accidents and file more than $800,000 in fraudulent auto insurance claims for property damage and personal injury protection (PIP). The arrests were announced March 27.
Jeff Atwater, Florida’s chief financial officer, says more arrests are expected. Atwater oversees the state’s Department of Financial Services.
From 2008 to 2010, the owners of the lunch trucks recruited participants to pose as the owners and stage auto accidents, Atwater says.
Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the nonprofit National Insurance Crime Bureau, says he’s heard of commercial vehicles being used in staged accidents, but never food-serving trucks. He jokes that the defendants in the Florida case may have gotten hungry “waiting to spot victims, so this became a natural solution.”
“This example just demonstrates, once again, the creativity of people involved in fraud — at all levels,” Scafidi says. “If there was a way that we could harness — for good purposes — all of the energy and creativity that these people expend in their illegal pursuits, the human condition would be far better than it is.”
Florida leads the country in the number of staged accidents, which often lead to treatment for injuries don’t exist or are greatly exaggerated, the Insurance Information Institute says.
State lawmakers have passed legislation aimed at reducing rampant PIP fraud under Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law. Under the current law, crooks take advantage of the fact that Florida drivers must carry at least $10,000 in PIP insurance. No-fault insurers pay up to 80 percent of a policyholder’s PIP claims, regardless of who caused the crash.
“Staged auto accidents are a dangerous criminal activity that targets innocent drivers with increasingly bold schemes aimed at defrauding insurance companies,” says Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute. “Not only do honest policyholders ultimately end up paying more for auto insurance, but those committing the fraud can cause serious injuries or death.”