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State blames ‘scam artists’ in Miami-Dade for raising insurance premiums statewide

Andrea Torres, Digital Journalist
Published: April 15, 2024, 3:40 PM
Updated: April 15, 2024, 5:55 PM

MIAMI – Two men and two women allegedly put on a performance in Miami-Dade County that got the attention of a member of Florida’s cabinet.

One of the suspects, Yuniesky Betancourt, is a former Major League Baseball player.

Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer, released a statement on Monday afternoon identifying Maura Perez, Nancy Mercedes Pena, Abel Vera, and Betancourt as “scam artists.”

The four stand accused of what has become a common form of fraud: Staging a car crash and reporting it to police with the intent of defrauding an insurance company.

“Staging accidents is incredibly dangerous and fraud like this costs every Floridian in the form of higher auto insurance premiums,” Patronis said.

Techies with the Florida Department Of Financial Services accused the group of staging a crash over a year ago to defraud Kemper, a Chicago-based insurance provider, and arrested them on Friday.

A fraud detective with the department’s division of investigative and forensic services used a device from one of the cars involved that records data before, during, and after a crash.

The detective with the division’s Miami field office accused Perez, 61; Pena, 50; Vera, 49; Betancourt, 42, of staging a crash on Dec. 6, 2022, to cause Kemper to pay more than $61,000, including nearly $23,000 for therapy.

The four — who did not have an arrest record in Miami-Dade — were facing felony charges of filing a false insurance fraud, an organized scheme to defraud, and third-degree grand theft.

Vera and Betancourt were facing an additional felony charge of insurance fraud by staging an accident.

Corrections released Perez and Pena Friday on $7,500 bonds. Vera and Betancourt appeared in bond court on Friday night. On Saturday, Veta was released on a $9,000 bond and Betancourt on a $4,500 bond.

Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Lody Jean was set to preside over the four cases. The arraignment hearings were set for 9 a.m., on May 13.

Patronis had a message for anyone considering the scam: ” It doesn’t matter how clever you think your scheme may be, if you commit fraud in Florida, you will be caught and brought to justice.”

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