In New York, 36 people were arrested for allegedly cheating auto insurance companies out of a quarter billion dollars in an elaborate scheme run by a Russian gang. The $279-million insurance fraud involved corrupted doctors and lawyers, feigned medical claims and over 100 fake clinics, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
New York Attorney Preet Bharara addressed the investigation at a new conference, calling the scam the largest single no-fault automobile insurance fraud ever charged. He explained that although the group claimed $279 million, insurance companies actually netted a loss of $113 million.
The doctors involved in the scheme, mainly of Russian descent, opened more than 100 fake medical clinics across New York, where they provided treatment to alleged accident victims. Runners were hired to seek out and recruit potential patients. The runners were literally ambulance chasers, often finding victims at scenes of accidents, hospitals or word of mouth, said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
While the accidents were not faked, the injuries claimed were completely fabricated. Once the doctors located its accident victims, the lawyers would advise them on what injuries to claim in order to maximize insurance payments.
Like thousands of other supposed fender-bender victims, they submitted to dozens of treatments and tests they didn't need, said Kelly. The patients were subjected to unnecessary MRIs, X-rays and other treatments and were also paid up to $3,000 for their cooperation in the scheme.
The scam specifically took advantage of New York's no-fault vehicle accident law that allows up to $50,000 in insurance payments for each victim, regardless of who was at fault.
The insurance fraud ring fell apart when two undercover investigators posed as accident victims and were taken to clinics, where they were prescribed treatment although they showed no signs of injuries.
The indictment includes federal racketeering charges, health care fraud and money laundering. If found guilty, the defendants could face between 30 and 70 years in jail.