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Southwest Florida PIP Fraud Sting Nets Five Arrests

An investigation into false personal injury claims led to the arrest of five people working at clinics in Fort Myers and Port Charlotte. On Friday, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrest of five individuals allegedly involved in an accident clinic sweep. CFO Atwater said that these arrests are another great win in the ongoing fight against PIP fraud in Florida and that he applauds the hard work of investigators able to identify and shut down these destructive crime rings, which hurt Florida families by driving up insurance rates for everyone.

Those arrested included massage therapists, chiropractors, and clinic owners. They were charged with patient brokering and solicitation in support of a large scale PIP fraud ring.

Partnering with Nationwide Insurance, the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud investigated Evans Rehab Center and Charlotte Wellness and Rehab. Evans Rehab Center is located at 3949 Evans Avenue in Fort Meyers, and Charlotte Wellness and Rehab is located at 4300 Kings Highway Suite 205 in Port Charlotte. Employees of these clinics allegedly advised patients to sign documents for rehabilitation services for injuries that supposedly arose from auto accidents. It is further alleged that the clinics subsequently billed insurance companies for such fraudulent treatments that never actually took place. Additionally, further investigation uncovered that Charlotte Wellness was allegedly operating without having the proper licensure requirements for such a clinic.

It all started with a tip. Lt. Mark Fritz with Florida Department of Financial Services Fraud Division said “Insurance company investigators came to us and reported suspicions that Evans Rehab was billing for services not rendered and that there was a recruiter referring patients to that clinic”. Individuals were required to visit the clinic forty times. As a result, patients would max out their Florida PIP benefits. Often, individuals would go to the clinic and sign a form multiple times for five visits but they really didn’t have to go all forty times. Nationwide Insurance lost over $33,000.00 from the two clinics.

Those taken into custody and charged include: Florida Feliz, a 31 year old receptionist; Joe Gevans, a 51 year old facilitator; Andres Bravo, a 52 year old massage therapist, Ronald Woodley, a 63 year old chiropractor, and clinic owner Gerard Jean Stephen Valere, 51.

On Sunday, 37 year old Fritz Edouard, an employee of Charlotte Wellness turned himself in to authorities after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He has been charged with criminal attempt to Solicit/Conspire, filing false health clinic application/info and patient brokering.

Both the Lee County and Charlotte County Sheriffs offices cooperated and assisted the Florida Department of Financial Services in their investigation relating to insurance fraud. Woodley, Gavens, Edouard, and Velere were all booked in the Charlotte County Jail. Feliz and Bravos were booked in the Lee County Jail. These individuals are facing a potential conviction that could lead to up to five years in prison. CBS news visited Feliz, who was bonded out of jail at the time, but she had no comment for reporters.

Unlike those who have found ways to commit fraud on Florida’s insurance company and potentially drive up insurance rates, you know that if you are in an motor vehicle collision your compensation should be correlated to the injuries you sustain. They should never be trumped up by filing unnecessary claims or receiving unnecessary treatment just to exhaust your available PIP benefits. The experienced and qualified persona; injury attorneys of the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you respond to an automobile collision and handle insurance company claims with integrity. Give us a call at 727-451-6900.