Whiplash and greed were good to Felix Filenger. The South Florida man motored several Bentleys around town, lived in an oceanfront apartment and flashed a $64,000 gold watch. His wife had $80,000 worth of designer bags. Filenger and Andrew Rubinstein looted auto insurers for a handsome living. They stole an outsized $23 million by loading up on inflated whiplash treatments for crash victims who were perfectly fine, or felt barely felt a twinge in their back or neck.
The duo’s crime ring rifled insurers in Florida for seven years. The inflated insurance payouts were yet another prime reason Florida drivers pay some of the the highest auto premiums in America.
Goal to recruit crash victims
The pair erected a large spiderweb of a crime ring. Corrupt attorneys, doctors chiropractors, clinic owners, MRI operators, tow-truck drivers and body shops all were on the take. Everything they did was geared mainly for one goal — convince crash victims to get useless whiplash treatment and testing they didn’t need. Once victims were under the ring’s thumb, millions of insurance dollars flowed into the crime ring’s hands.
Filenger and Rubinstein spread kickbacks around like peanut butter on wheat bread to bring in crash victims for treatment.
A network of informants knew about the latest crashes, and helped recruit the motorists. Police employees stole confidential crash reports listing victims. Tow-truck drivers, body shops, hospital staff, ambulance workers all took in bribes of $500-$2,500 for each person they bought in. One recruiter figured he bought in about 750 patients. That was good for $1 million in kickbacks to fill his bank accounts.
Drivers and passengers were contacted right after crashes. They were herded to a corrupt lawyer, then for weeks of expensive chiro treatment and tests. A dozen chiropractic clinics were under Filenger’s and Rubinstein’s control.
Victims had few aches, pains
Victims often felt perfectly fine, with few aches or pains. Yet doctors on the take routinely diagnosed them with an “emergency medical condition.” That green lighted the treatment and tests, overbilled to auto insurers. Patients typically were told to get 30 or more chiro treatments — whether or not they needed it. Painful and invasive nerve tests also were inflicted on them, tacking on more false insurance claims.
Many crash victims smelled insurance money as well. They received hefty insurance payouts if they kept coming back for chiro treatments. Ring members coached them to complain about painful symptoms to set up the scam treatments. Some crash victims were fake. Ring members set up car crashes, thus manufacturing nonexistent victims for chiro treatment. Nobody was hurt, and cars were barely damaged.
Years of federal investigations and surveillance finally broke down the fraud ring. It was too big and complex to stay unnoticed. Filenger was handed 6 1/2 years in federal prison, and Rubinstein six years thanks to dogged prosecutors with the Southern District of Florida. “The remorse you felt was only after you were caught,” the judge admonished Rubenstein. “The illegal activities … affect every consumer by increasing their annual insurance premium cost.”
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