Florida CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Arrest of ‘Straw Owner,’ Clinic Operator for Violating Clinic Law, Filing Fraudulent PIP Claims
Contact: Alexis Lambert
TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced today that charges have been filed against an Orlando chiropractor and two clinic operators for allegedly conspiring to create a “straw” ownership arrangement to thwart Florida’s clinic licensing laws.
Judith Christina McKenzie, a chiropractic physician, allegedly fronted ownership of Silver Star Health and Rehab Inc, located at 5026 Silver Star Road. However, an investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) determined that Silver Star was really owned, operated and managed by non-physicians Jean Ely Colin and Marc Arthur Maxis. Arrest warrants have been issued for all three. McKenzie and Colin have surrendered and were booked into the Orange County Jail. Maxis remains at large.
“This kind of fraud costs every honest Floridian with a car in the driveway, and we can’t throw the crooks in jail fast enough,” Atwater said. “My department is committed to finding the perpetrators and bringing them to justice, but we also must put more barriers in place to stop this fraud and the skyrocketing cost of auto insurance in Florida.”
McKenzie purported to be the sole owner of Silver Star, so the clinic operated with a self-proclaimed exemption since its inception in May 2008. Because McKenzie held a license with the Department of Health (DOH), she was automatically exempt from clinic licensing requirements regulated by the Agency for Health Care Administration under the Health Care Clinic Act, FSS 400.9935. However, as a result of the clinic’s fraudulent business arrangement, insurance claims filed by the clinic were fraudulent. The DIF found that more than $525,000 in fraudulent PIP claims filed with five different insurance companies.
Detectives said Silver Star’s banking records proved the “straw owner” arrangement. Furthermore, McKenzie admitted she did not run the clinic and had no financial obligations to the operation.
The three co-conspirators are charged with organized scheme to defraud, operating an unlicensed health care clinic, filing false and fraudulent insurance claims and grand theft. If convicted on all charges, each could face up to 125 years in prison in addition to fines and restitution.
The case is being prosecuted by the Orange County State Attorney’s Office.
Anyone with information regarding suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445 . Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses and providing transparency and accountability in spending.