Who are the big perpetrators of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud? Clinic operators.
In May 2011, police arrested another one: Jean Fritz Petoite of Bethel Health and Rehab Center Inc. in Orlando.
Petoite schemed to falsify PIP claims and recruited participants in staged accidents, all to rip off Direct General Insurance Company for more than $64,000 in PIP claims, according to Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s office and the Orlando Sentinel.
This type of fraud occurs every day in Florida, driving up the PIP premiums of honest drivers. While state, local and private investigators are doing all that they can to stop the criminals, the abuses are so widespread that police need more resources and the state needs tougher laws to control the problem.
Petoite and two clinic employees allegedly coerced patients into signing and faking treatment forms that were submitted to Direct General. Petoite also recruited staged accident participants by offering them $1,000 each if they came to Bethel Health and Rehab Center. The participants were coached on how to lie to insurance claim investigators, police say.
The clinic also faked treatment records of unsuspecting patients, reports the Orlando Sentinel. A woman and her 16-year-old daughter were in a car crash in January 2010 and sought treatment at the clinic. The clinic manager referred the mother to a law firm, which soon wrote her that it would no longer represent her and her daughter.
“With the letter were medical documents the mother said were forged. She also told authorities that bills submitted to an insurance company contained charges for treatment that never was received,” the Sentinel reports.
The state Division of Insurance Fraud investigated. It found that the clinic billed Direct General for 21 therapy sessions for the mother and 20 for the daughter. Court documents show that the mother was never treated and the daughter was treated only once.
The bad guys could face up to 30 years in prison, but that’s not enough. Florida needs tough laws that discourage abuse of the PIP system. Otherwise, arrests like these will continue to be commonplace.