Insurance Fraud NEWS
Chiro duo launch $23M no-fault kickback con in Florida
March 21, 2018, Miami, FL
Even Andrew Rubinstein admits he was motivated by greed when he got involved in an elaborate $23 million auto insurance fraud that operated for years in chiropractic clinics in South Florida.
His desire for a more comfortable life was part of a circle of fraud that federal prosecutors said cost the rest of us — by pushing up the cost of insurance for millions of drivers.
Rubinstein, who was part of a corrupt group of clinic owners, chiropractors and attorneys that operated mostly in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, was sentenced Wednesday to six years in federal prison.
“He did it for greed. He did it because he wanted a better lifestyle. He did it for money,” prosecutor Jeffrey Kaplan said.
The crime ring raked in at least $23 million from 10 auto insurance companies in the seven years it operated, ending with a series of arrests in 2017.
The fraud involved ripping off auto insurance companies by illegally billing for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance money under Florida’s no-fault law.
Massive $23 million auto insurance fraud was an intricate operation
Rubinstein, 48, of Miami, and the self-confessed ringleader, Felix Filenger, 41, of Sunny Isles, have both been locked up in the federal detention center in downtown Miami since they were arrested in October. Both men pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge last year.
The fraud involved paying kickbacks of $1,500 to $2,000 — per patient — to tow truck drivers and body shop workers who illegally steered accident victims to chiropractic clinics that were secretly owned or controlled by Rubinstein and Filenger and their helpers.
Some of the “patients” were also steered to attorneys who told them they might be able to receive compensation from the insurance companies by filing insurance claims or lawsuits.
The so-called “runners” had access to what were supposed to be confidential crash reports when they towed or repaired vehicles and used that opportunity to refer drivers and passengers to the clinics.
The fraudsters required the “patients” to seek unnecessary and excessive treatment, investigators said.
Clinic workers then required the patients attend multiple visits, sometimes 15 or more. Workers at the clinics documented exaggerated pain levels and quickly billed insurance providers for the maximum $10,000 allowed for rapid emergency treatment under Florida law.
Rubinstein, also known as Andrei Rubinsteyn, immigrated from Ukraine more than 20 years ago and became a U.S. citizen. He told the judge he sincerely regrets his crimes.
“I’m truly sorry for my selfishness, which brought us all here today,” Rubinstein told U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom.
Rubinstein said he used the untold amount of money he received on day-to-day expenses, his family’s home, vehicles and vacations. His attorney Marc Seitles said Rubinstein had a difficult early life in Ukraine and, in some ways, led him to think that “taking advantage of the system to get on” was acceptable.
Rubinstein’s 16-year-old daughter, Michelle, cried as she made a heartbreaking plea to try to keep her father out of prison. She told the judge that her dad held their family together as her mom struggled with mental health problems and alcoholism before suffering a fatal stroke in 2015.
Rubinstein is an Ivy League-educated occupational therapist and former engineer who took advantage of many opportunities in life, including attending Columbia University, prosecutors Kaplan and Paul Schwartz told the judge.
“These are supposed to be the people who lead our society, not drag it down,” Kaplan said of Rubinstein and the other educated people, including doctors and lawyers, who admitted they participated in the crimes.
Prosecutors said they felt sorry for Rubinstein’s family but said he made the decision to commit serious offenses that went on for about seven years. Under the terms of his plea agreement, both sides had agreed to recommend the six-year sentence.
Judge Bloom told Rubinstein it was difficult to sentence him, knowing the suffering it was causing his teen daughter and step-son. But she reminded him that he continued to commit the crimes for an additional two years after the FBI searched his premises in 2015 and he learned he was under investigation.
“The remorse you felt was only after you were caught,” the judge said. “The illegal activities … affect every consumer by increasing their annual insurance premium cost.”
The amount of restitution that Rubinstein owes will be determined in the next few months.
The prosecution said Rubinstein may qualify for a reduction in his punishment in the future because he is cooperating with their ongoing investigation.
Prosecutors said the clinics were in south and central Florida, including Sunrise, Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Pompano Beach, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Miami, Orlando and Kissimmee.
Filenger, described as the mastermind behind the fraud, had been scheduled for sentencing Wednesday, but it was postponed until next month.
Earlier this year, Linda Varisco, 55, a chiropractor from Coral Springs, was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison. She was ordered to pay more than $5.7 million in restitution. She pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements in relation to healthcare benefits and one count of conspiring to commit mail, wire and healthcare fraud. She must report to prison on June 1.
Several other people who also admitted their roles in the fraud are scheduled for sentencing later this year.
Jason Dalley, an attorney who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit health care, mail and wire fraud. He is free on bond.
Dalley, 55, lives in Boca Raton and has a personal injury and criminal defense law firm in Delray Beach. The Florida Bar lists him as a “member in good standing — suspension pending.” He admitted he paid kickbacks of $2,000 and more to a clinic operator, tow-truck drivers and other “runners” who referred clients to him.
Olga Spivak, 59, a chiropractor from Hollywood, who pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge. She is free on bond.
Richard Yonover, 66, of Lake Worth, who secretly owned two clinics, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and healthcare fraud. He is also free on bond.