Auto insurance fraud thrives in Tampa until detected


30Tampa has become a hot spot for auto insurance fraud which has been going on undetected for quite a while now. There are many stories that have come to light and one involves Dr. Alex Petro who claimed disability as a result of a car accident in Hillsborough County. He claimed that he could not even cut grass or even remove the garbage. Thus, he managed to collect $300,000 from the insurers through disability payments.

However, Petro ran out of luck when he was arrested on certain prescription drug charges. When the Pinellas Sheriff’s deputies delved further into their investigations and checked the backgrounds of this chiropractor they chanced upon something that the initial investigation did not. The driver of the beer truck which had rammed into Petro’s Cadillac was also residing at the same address as Petro, in St. Petersburg.

These fresh findings managed to get a particular insurance company very interested and they began monitoring the activities of the 46-year-old doctor to check on his disability claims.

Petro was arrested again in 2008 on charges of felony in insurance fraud. He was among the hundreds of people who were arrested in Florida within the past 3 years. The chief financial officer Jeff Atwater has termed this as an epidemic. The state has ranked number one in auto insurance fraud and the fraudulent claims have cost nearly $1 billion for the consumers.

Sometime in July 2007, Petro was secretly videotaped running errands in his pickup with the tag ‘Bacpain’ as well as Petro Construction Group printed on either side. He was found loading boxes of tiles into his pickup and he also managed to carry heavy bags of grout quite effortlessly. He was arrested in late 2008 for filing fraudulent insurance claims. The $10,000 cash bond was provided by none other than the person who had rear-ended him and his name is Robert Chambers. Petro has pleaded guilty on the fraud charges and is on five-year probation with his chiropractic license revoked.

Tampa has been leading in staged accidents with over 487 last year alone and only Brooklyn seemed to have more. As the investigators were busy focusing on South Florida, fraud flourished in Tampa where nobody was watching. The crime had migrated slowly from South Florida and is now thriving in Orlando, Miami, and Tampa. There was just one agent in Tampa who used to investigate fraudulent claims, but now there are five of them as well as two intelligence analysts.