News and Press Releases


Chiropractor and Office Assistant Sentenced in Staged Automobile Accident Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 8, 2014

92 defendants have been charged to date in Operation Sledgehammer I-VI

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Donnell Young, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Jeff Atwater, Florida Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services, and Dave Aronberg, State Attorney, Office of the State Attorney for Palm Beach County, announce that Lawrence Schechtman, 45, chiropractor, of Parkland, and Sircy Sacerio, a/k/a “Sisi” a/k/a “Sircy Santos”, 31, receptionist and office assistant, of Palm Springs, were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra for their participation in an automobile insurance fraud scheme involving staged automobile accidents.

Schechtman was sentenced to 52 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $2,446,906.79 in restitution. Sacerio was sentenced to 48 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $1,146,824.26 in restitution. Both defendants previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. Schechtman also pled guilty to four counts of mail fraud, and Sacerio also pled guilty to five counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2.

According to court documents, between approximately October 2006 and December 2012, the conspiracy members staged automobile accidents by recruiting individuals to participate in the accidents. The participants were referred to as “Perro” and “Perra” or “Macho” and “Hembra.” Thereafter, the clinic owners caused the submission of false insurance claims through chiropractic clinics that were controlled by members of the conspiracy. To execute the scheme, the true owners of the chiropractic clinics recruited individuals who had the medical or chiropractic licenses required by the state to open a clinic, including Schechtman, to act as “nominee owners” of the clinics. The co-conspirators also hired complicit licensed chiropractors, including Schechtman, who prescribed and billed for unnecessary treatments and/or for services that had not been rendered. Thereafter, complicit clinic employees, including Sacerio, prepared and submitted claims to the automobile insurance companies for payment for these unnecessary or non-rendered services. Twenty-one clinics participated in this scheme.

Starting with Operation Sledgehammer I in June 2011 and including the defendants charged in Operation Sledgehammer VI, 92 defendants have been charged for their participation in this automobile insurance fraud scheme. Of those 92 defendants, 56 have been charged federally by the U.S. Attorney's Office, resulting in court-ordered restitution of more than $5 million to the defrauded insurance companies. Thirty-six defendants have been charged by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.

Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, the Florida Department of Insurance Fraud, the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, and the Greater Palm Beach County Health Care Fraud Task Force for their outstanding work in this case. Mr. Ferrer also recognized the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) for its collaboration and assistance in this investigation. The federal cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Marie Villafaña and the state cases are being prosecuted by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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