Miami No. 1 City For Staged Accidents

MIAMI — Investigators across the country are trying new tactics to crack down on the old problem of auto insurance fraud — especially in Florida, where three cities are on the top ten list for staged accidents, with Miami at No. 1.

In a recent survey, Miami was in first place in America for staged accidents and Los Angeles was No. 2, according to Rich Halberg with Allstate Insurance. Houston, Chicago and Philadelphia rounded out the top five and New York City ranked ninth.

Since 2000, police and prosecutors in Miami have made nearly 1,100 arrests in cases with fraudulent claims topping $36 million, said Nina Banister, a spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud.

Many of the arrests came after authorities funded two prosecutors to prosecute only fraud cases. In the first year, there was a 25 percent increase in arrest and convictions, Banister said.

In Florida, lawmakers also increased the penalties for staging accidents and just this past year heightened the penalties for claiming injuries in so-called phantom accidents that never occurred. The laws came after Orlando and Tampa both moved into the top 10 cities for staged accidents.