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4 Insurers Seek Millions in Fraud Damages

December 3, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ Four major insurance companies filed lawsuits Wednesday seeking to recover more than $105 million from people they accused of staging car crashes and faking injuries to collect insurance checks.

One of the suits, filed by Allstate Insurance Co., Encompass Insurance and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., asks for $102 million in damages _ the largest no-fault insurance fraud suit in New York state history, the companies said.

A second suit, filed by Liberty Mutual Group, aims to collect more than $3.4 million from a group of medical clinics and their owners that police have said are phony, set up simply to run insurance fraud claims.

Both lawsuits allege schemes in which participants set up car crashes _ sometimes even injuring innocent drivers _ then went to phony medical clinics for unnecessary treatment, or treatment that never happened at all.

Industry estimates say the fraud drives up premiums by roughly $1 billion each year in New York state, amounting to a $170 to $200 increase in an average household’s premiums.

The $102 million suit names 74 defendants. The three insurers say they are connected to a pyramid scheme operating under the name Parallel Management Group that laundered money through entities it owned and controlled.

``The scope of this problem points to a deliberate, well-organized and sophisticated enterprise that imposes what could be termed an auto-insurance surcharge on every honest driver in New York state,″ said Vince Coyne, Nationwide’s special investigations director.

There was no answer Wednesday at a telephone listing for Parallel Management.

On Sept. 28, New York police said they had arrested more than 50 people in an extensive fraud ring in which participants staged car accidents and faked injuries to collect insurance checks.

Doctors wrote falsified medical claims for those people, and lawyers filed for insurance claims of up to $50,000 for each victim, police said.

New York state’s no-fault insurance law guarantees insurance payouts of up to $50,000 for people hurt in car accidents.

The Liberty Mutual suit is tied directly to the New York police arrests in September, the company said. It also names Parallel Management as a defendant.

The lawsuit by the three insurers was filed in Manhattan State Supreme Court. The Liberty Mutual suit was filed in Nassau County Supreme Court, on Long Island.


On the Net:

Allstate: http://www.allstate.com

Encompass: http://www.encompassinsurance.com

Nationwide: http://www.nationwide.com

Liberty Mutual: http://www.libertymutual.com

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