Ben Johnson: How to end PIP fraud


Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 4:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 4:53 p.m.

With Personal Injury Protection (PIP) legislation currently being heard and debated by legislative committees, the Florida Sheriffs Association stands firm in its efforts to take a bite out of this criminal activity that harms Florida consumers.

PIP fraud, a nearly $1 billion problem for Florida insurance consumers, also is becoming a major problem for law enforcement. The burden on law enforcement increases each year as criminal enterprises step up their efforts to organize staged accidents, and engage in fraudulent medical practices and bad-faith lawsuits. The Florida Sheriffs Association has joined Put the Brakes on Accident Fraud (Gear Up Florida), a coalition of businesses and citizens dedicated to taking away the tools that enable criminals to game the system and collectively walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains each year.

On Dec. 7, two undercover sheriff's detectives briefed legislators in conjunction with the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee meeting. Afterward, wearing masks to protect their identities, they provided media with information about their activities as undercover officers working on PIP fraud in Hillsborough County. They revealed that they have arrested 127 people connected to staged accidents, insurance fraud, and patient brokering. They closed seven “PIP mills,” clinics set up specifically to defraud insurance companies. The detectives have seen first-hand that PIP mills turn away legitimate patients who are not a part of organized insurance fraud schemes. Worse, they said these bad actors use their criminal organizations to engage in other illegal activities including theft, human trafficking, witness

intimidation and money laundering.

Unfortunately, investigations are typically lengthy, manpower-intensive operations involving multiple law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and the courts. So in addition to increased automobile insurance premiums, Floridians' tax dollars also subsidize PIP fraud through increased demands on the justice system.

More undercover detectives are not the only answer to stopping to PIP fraud. The Legislature must act to establish laws that eliminate the profit motive for staging accidents, fraudulently billing for medical care, and filing bad-faith lawsuits. Law enforcement, if backed by stricter laws, can make a significant dent in rampant PIP fraud. We owe Floridians nothing less.

You can do something about PIP fraud. Join us at a rally with Governor Rick Scott on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at noon at the Florida Capitol, Fourth Floor Rotunda. We hope to see you there. Find out more about Put the Brakes on Accident Fraud (Gear Up Florida) at

www.GearUpFlorida.com.

Ben Johnson

Volusia County Sheriff

President,

Florida Sheriffs Association

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