WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - After a multi-agency, three- year investigation, law enforcement agencies have completed a bust into an insurance fraud ring in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
Officials arrested 26 of 33 people charged with their involvement in an accident staging fraud ring on Thursday.
The investigation, called Operation Sledgehammer, is considered a "white-collar crime ring" by investigators.
Authorities say those charged would recruit people to participate in staged automobile accidents. At times, that could include taking a sledgehammer to a vehicle, leading to the name of the operation.
Participants were taught them how to conduct the accident, what to say to police officers, how to collect their police reports, and which clinic to go to for therapy services, even though they wouldn't need treatment.
Among those charged are accident participants, recruiters, therapists, licensed chiropractors, and clinic owners.
Investigators say those charged prepared fraudulent insurance documentation for chiropractic and massage therapy services, saying the patients received the services. In most cases, services were never received.
Participants, recruiters, owners and the medical professionals would then receive their portion of PIP checks.
Thursday's arrest sweep is the latest stage of the investigation that has resulted in charges against 92 people over the span of several years.
Officials say fraud schemes like these are to blame for rising insurance costs.
Those charged are accused of billing insurers for more than $20 million dollars.
Investigators say several of those charged are believed to have fled to Cuba.