NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral
It took a year, but undercover investigators have taken down two medical clinics in southwest Florida that filed fraudulent Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims. The staged-accident scam was a lot like others in Florida that push up drivers’ insurance rates.
Nationwide Insurance worked with state investigators to learn who was organizing fake car crashes in which uninjured passengers would claim that they needed medical treatment.
Participants would sign documents at Evans Rehab Center on Evans Avenue in Fort Myers, but receive no treatment, according to a witness. The clinic then sent PIP claims to auto insurers.
“Insurance company investigators came to us and reported that they had suspicions that Evans Rehab was billing for services not rendered,” Lt. Mark Fritz with the Florida Department of Financial Service’s Fraud Division told WINK News. “There was a recruiter that was referring patients to that clinic. We had a traffic accident report with their names on it and that’s what got us in the doors.”
The investigation then extended to Charlotte Wellness and Rehab on Kings Highway in Port Charlotte.
“Each clinic, they were required to visit 40 times,” Fritz told the TV station. “With the 40 times, it maxed out the PIP payment. A lot of times, they’d go there and sign a form multiple times for five visits, but they really didn’t have to go all those 40 times.”
The investigation also found that Charlotte Wellness did not have the proper licensure requirements, according to an announcement from the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud.
In late October, investigators arrested:
- Clinic owner Gerard Jean Stephen Valere, 51, for patient brokering and attempt to solicit, conspire
- Facilitator Joe Gevans, 51, on criminal solicitation and patient brokering
- Chiropractor Ronald Woodley, 63, for filing a false health clinic application
- Jordany Estimond, 44, on charges of patient brokering and attempt to solicit, conspire
- Massage therapist Andres Bravo, 52, on a charge of grand theft
- Receptionist Gloria Feliz, 31, on seven counts of insurance fraud and one count of fraud
If convicted, each faces up to five years in prison. The state is looking for additional suspects connected to the clinics.
“These arrests are another great win in the ongoing fight against PIP fraud in Florida,” Florida CFO Jeff Atwater said in a statement. “I applaud the hard work of our investigators who are able to identify and shut down these destructive crime rings, which hurt Florida families by driving up insurance rates for everyone.”
PIP fraud arrests at southwest Florida clinic