South Florida is a grifter's paradise. And the latest con to emerge in this skeezy swampland is as brazen as it is complex: staging car accidents.
Earlier this week, the FBI announced that at least ten people have been sentenced in a West Palm Beach court for their role in the scheme. Oscar Luis Franco Padron, the mastermind, was sentenced to eight years in prison and will need to cough up $4.35 million in restitution.
The FBI said the crew recruited family and friends with car insurance to crash into one another. The participants were "coached" on how to actually smash into one another without causing too much mayhem. They were also coached on how to answer questions from the cops after they phoned in the accident.
Key to the con was making sure every seat of the car had someone in it. Insurers in Florida are required to provide PIP - Personal Injury Protection - which ensures an extra $10,000 per person.
After the accident, the participants went to chiropractors' offices that were owned by the people running the con. The offices included the aptly-named Healthcare R Us in Palm Springs and the wholly unimaginative Chiropractor Office of South Florida, also in Palm Springs.
The staged accident participants filled out paperwork falsely asserting that they suffered injuries during the staged accident. The defendants advised the participants on how to fill out the paperwork and what to say if an insurance investigator interviewed them about their injuries or treatment. The staged accident participants were instructed to sign numerous blank treatment forms that would later be submitted indicating that they had visited the clinic on a number of separate occasions for treatment, although they may have visited the clinic only once or twice. During their visits, some staged accident participants received no treatment at all...
Padron pled guilty to a trio of charges, including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to structure financial transactions.
It was a presumably lucrative con.
A June 2011 affidavit shows dozens of $9,000 transactions at Bank of America and Wachovia Bank. By keeping all the transactions under $10,000, the group evaded a reporting requirement for transactions ten grand and more.