It takes a very wrong kind of mom to put a child in an auto accident, just to make money from Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud. Yet that’s what happened. Ana Ovando of West Palm Beach subjected her five children – ages 3 to 17 – to faked crashes so that she could file phony PIP claims.
Now, Ovando is headed to federal prison for six-and-one-half years for mail fraud conspiracy and mail fraud. There’s no criminal penalty for being a reprehensible parent; if there were, she might not ever be released.
“These children were exposed to physical danger,” a federal prosecutor wrote to the judge in asking for a longer term than federal sentencing guidelines dictate.
“Ovando put them in a vehicle with the full knowledge that they would be in an automobile accident on a city street. Having the children present in the vehicle made the accident look more ‘real,’ and Ovando hoped that it would keep the insurance companies from suspecting fraud.”
To all the people who say that auto insurance companies have overstated the PIP fraud problem, we say look at Ovando. Prosecutors taped her calling home from jail, asking her children to lie to the court about her fraud, according to a Sun-Sentinel article. The same tapes revealed that her older children begged her not to include them in her crimes because they feared that the police would come after them.
Yes, the money to be made from PIP fraud can be a stronger motivator than a mother’s love. Janice Velez, who was convicted with Ovando, used her two children in one staged accident.
Ovando took her children to New York Medical and Rehab Center and Velez took her children to Karow Chiropractic Center. Both are in West Palm Beach. Massage therapists admitted in court that both mothers signed blank treatment sheets that the massage therapists later completed and submitted to the insurance company for reimbursement.
In that way, it was a typical PIP scheme: Each staged accident results in faked injuries that lead to fraudulent PIP claims. Velez was sentenced to two years in prison.
Both women were caught as a result of an investigation by the FBI, IRS, and Florida Department of Insurance Fraud. They were assisted by National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Greater Palm Beach Health Care Fraud Task Force.
We feel sorry for the children. While they were unwilling participants and therefore not charged or jailed, they were forced to live like criminals. Now they have lost their mothers. Where is the justice for them?