Tampa woman accused of insurance fraud for faking car accident

An account manager for United Health Care in Tampa, Florida, was the target of a year-long criminal investigation after she was suspected of staging a car accident and pretending to be injured in order to obtain insurance money. The 36-year-old woman has been charged with insurance fraud and is being held in a Hillsborough County jail in lieu of $21,000 bail.

According to authorities, she received a total of $1,000 in insurance payments after the questionable car accident.

Press reports gave no indication of what may have led authorities to suspect the woman of filing questionable insurance claims. According to the arrest report, she said she was suffering from back pain after the car accident in December 2009.

However, investigators set up an insurance fraud sting operation targeting the woman. In 2010, investigators say, the woman admitted on both audio and videotape that she had been involved in an intentional crash, and undercover officers hatched a plan with the woman to stage another injury-accident which was to have taken place in April 2010.

According to the investigators, the idea was to pay a driver and passengers to take part in the staged accident, then fake injuries and collect compensation from the insurance company.

Undercover sting operations always bring up the question of police entrapment

The undercover operation that resulted in the Tampa woman’s arrest was underway for more than a year, a surprisingly long time for an investigation of a one-time offender in a relatively minor white collar crime. The unusually long duration of the undercover operation, combined with the relatively small amount of money the woman is said to have received, are bound to bring up the question of entrapment during her trial.

It has been highly publicized that Florida, and Tampa particularly, are considered hot spots for insurance fraud involving staged auto accidents. In fact, we have covered that trend in this blog. Are overzealous insurance fraud investigators targeting people with minor injuries and pushing them to agree to commit crimes?

Source: St. Petersburg Times, “Tampa Woman Arrested for Insurance Fraud Scheme Over Staging Car Accidents,” Kim Wilmath, April 11, 2011