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Undercover PIP fraud investigators make the rounds at the Capitol

As both the House and Senate continue to solicit input on proposed reforms to the state's no-fault insurance law, a pair of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office detectives met with legislators to discuss their experiences as undercover PIP fraud investigators.

Undercover PIPRonnie Cooper and Jose Morales wore suits, ties and black ski masks to hide their identities as they talked about pain clinics where virtually all of the patients are part of an organized effort to abuse the PIP system and what it's like to participate in a staged accidents.

"Everybody in both vehicles knows what's going to happen," Morales said. "They know what clinics they're going to go to. They know how much they're going to get paid."

The detectives said much of the fraud surrounding PIP, or personal injury protection, is coordinated by loosely affiliated organized crime cells. Physician-owned clinics that are exempt from state oversight are most problematic, they said.

Meanwhile, attorneys, doctors and insurance companies continue to provide testimony on the issue; both the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and the Senate's Banking and Insurance Committee met this morning.

Tampa attorney Jason Lamoureux said the problem would be best addressed by increasing law enforcement, not more regulation of the industry. "You put more boots on the ground and you fight the fraud," he told the House panel.

Later, representatives from GEICO told the Senate committee that effort should be made to reduce excessive medical treatments and billing, as well as attorney fees.

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