He is every personal injury lawyerâ€™s nightmare. The fraudulent claimant. He may be rare, but he is despicable. His scheme costs the lawyer, the insurance company and the system serious money. Because of him insurance rates are higher. Legitimate claimants have a harder time with insurance adjustors and juries because the liars and cheats poison the well. ABC Action News has done its part in Tampa Bay to expose the problem and some really bad actors.
He is every personal injury lawyerâ€™s nightmare. The fraudulent claimant. He may be rare, but he is despicable. His scheme costs the lawyer, the insurance company and the system serious money. Because of him insurance rates are higher. Legitimate claimants have a harder time with insurance adjustors and juries because the liars and cheats poison the well. Exposing insurance fraud and prosecuting its perpetrators is in everyone’s best interests. ABC Action News has done its part in Tampa Bay to expose the problem and some really bad actors.
Local company catches insurance fraud suspects on tape
an ABC Action News report 11/10/05
TAMPA – Worker’s compensation cheaters cost every honest worker in Florida more than $1,000 a year. Now, some of them have been caught in the act.
William Smith walks with a limp and uses a cane — but only sometimes. Other times he goes without one, and appears to be walking just fine.
The 54-year-old Clearwater man says he can’t work because of a back injury, and he’s collected thousands in worker’s compensation benefits. Prosecutors say Smith is faking it, and they’ve charged him with fraud.
“It’s an epidemic, it’s huge. Insurance fraud is rampant,” stated Richie Taffet.
Taffet runs First Advantage Investigative Services, a nationwide company based in St. Petersburg that specializes in uncovering insurance fraud.
Taffet’s undercover investigators caught William Smith walking without his cane in several locations. In one video, Smith is seen shopping at one of those big warehouse stores with his cane in the shopping cart.
William Smith did not seem to need a cane while shopping. But Smith was using a cane when Action News spotted him outside a doctor’s office. He declined to comment when questioned by investigator Matthew Schwartz.
Despite the video evidence, Smith pleaded not guilty to worker’s compensation fraud. He has a pre-trial hearing in Pinellas County court scheduled for December 15.
Meanwhile, a man named Randell Williams claimed he needed a walker just to get from his car to the doctor’s office, that he could barely walk or even stand because of an injury at his government job.
For over 12 years, Williams collected thousands in worker’s comp checks. On the surveillance tape, Williams hobbles out of his doctor’s office. But his luck, and his free ride, run out down the road when his truck stalls.
Out of sight of the doctor’s office, Williams ditches the walker and climbs up on the truck and under the hood to fix the engine. But now, he’s fixed. He pleaded no contest.
Insurance experts say worker’s compensation fraud amounts to $6 billion a year in bogus claims, but insurance companies aren’t the only victims. Fraud means higher premiums for honest citizens.
Randell Williams ditched his walker to work on his truck. “There are so many people out there that try to get a free ride, that try to get something for nothing, and defraud the insurance system instead of going out and working an honest day for an honest day’s pay,” Taffet continued.
Then there’s Bruce Gilbert, one of most notorious insurance frauds in the bay area. His story was talked about across the country, and it happened right in our back yard.
Gilbert was a Pinellas County bus driver who claimed a bad fall caused him to have the mind of a 5-year-old. He was 49 when, in a sworn deposition, he spoke in baby talk and appeared unable to answer basic questions.
But Gilbert didn’t know he was being followed by insurance investigators, who caught him driving a car. And how many 5-year-olds do you know who are married? Or go hunting, with a rifle?
When police showed up to arrest Gilbert, he went back to baby talk.
“Where Mommy?” he babbled.
“She’s up there in the car. She’s under arrest, too,” an officer replied.
Gilbert and his wife were convicted of fraud and grand theft, and ordered to repay $700,000.
For years, reporters have been unable to find Gilbert, but Action News found him living a couple of hundred miles north of Tampa, in Lake City.
At least, like most little kids, Gilbert doesn’t talk to strangers. He slammed the door in the face of Matthew Schwartz when the reporter tried to interview him.
If you want to report insurance fraud, you can call the Florida Division of Financial Services insurance fraud hotline at 1-800-378-0445.