CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Five Arrests in Southwest Florida Accident Clinic Sweep
Contact: Chris Cate
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the arrests of five individuals involved in an accident clinic sweep in Fort Myers and Port Charlotte, Florida. The arrests included clinic owners, massage therapists and chiropractors charged with patient brokering and solicitation in support of a large scale personal injury protection (PIP) fraud ring.
“These arrests are another great win in the ongoing fight against PIP fraud in Florida,” said CFO Atwater. “I applaud the hard work of our investigators who are able to identify and shut down these destructive crime rings, which hurt Florida families by driving up insurance rates for everyone.”
A long-term investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud in partnership with Nationwide Insurance Company discovered that employees at Evans Rehab Center, located at 3949 Evans Avenue in Fort Myers and Charlotte Wellness and Rehab located at 4300 Kings Highway, Suite 205, in Port Charlotte, advised patients to sign documents for rehabilitation services for injuries that supposedly occurred during auto accidents. It is alleged that these clinics then billed insurance companies for fraudulent treatments that never occurred. The investigation also revealed that Charlotte Wellness was allegedly operating without the proper licensure requirements.
Taken into custody were Gloria Feliz, 31, receptionist; Andres Bravo, 52, massage therapist; Joe Gevans, 51, facilitator; Gerard Jean Stephen Valere, 51, clinic owner; and Ronald Woodley, 63, chiropractor.
The department’s investigation was assisted by the Lee and Charlotte County Sheriff’s offices. Woodley, Gavens and Valere were booked into the Charlotte County Jail, and both Feliz and Bravos were booked into the Lee County Jail. The subjects are awaiting bond, and if convicted, they each face up to five years in prison.
Anyone with information involving suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $342,000 to more than 50 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, 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 state spending.