The gates are opening on one of the biggest Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud schemes in Florida. Over the past 18 months, police have arrested more than 100 people — that’s an average of one every five days — on charges they participated in staged vehicle accidents.
Two of them were just sentenced. Jose Alberto Velez, 30, was ordered to spend six years and two months in prison, and April Rosita Wynn, 23, was given four years. Both had been convicted in June for their roles in faking car accidents and filing false PIP claims with insurance companies.
Their arrests stemmed from an investigation begun in 2012 by the state attorney’s office and the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud. They found that Velez and Wynn recruited friends and family to participate in their scam. It involved orchestrating low-speed crashes of vehicles and having the occupants claim that they had suffered serious injuries that required medical treatment.
The individuals were directed to rehabilitation clinics which filed insurance claims for examinations and treatment not needed and sometimes not given. Participants were usually paid a small sum while the fraud masterminds received the bulk of the insurance payouts.
Investigators nabbed many people, including David Rodriguez Lopez, whom they consider to be the ringleader. He has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. He will likely have company; many more cases are pending.