From South Carolina Insurance News Service
A total of 75 convictions for insurance fraud were made in 2010 by the South Carolina Attorney General's Insurance Fraud Division, according to a year-end report. Defendants were ordered to pay $316,270 in restitution to victims of fraud, in both criminal and civil cases.
Attorney General Alan Wilson has issued the annual report on insurance fraud for 2010. His office received 596 complaints of insurance fraud in 2010 and carried over 213 from 2009.
The cases received in 2010 amounted to nearly $14.5 million in insurance fraud, more than twice the dollar amount reported in 2009. Of that, $11.9 million related to automobile insurance fraud. In next place was health and medical insurance fraud, at $1.3 million. The record for one year's dollar amount in insurance fraud is nearly $15.4 million in 2006, but that included a single complaint of $10 million.
"The year 2010 was one of great accomplishments and challenges," Wilson said. "The Insurance Fraud Division of the Office of the Attorney General made great headway in the protection of South Carolina's citizens by aggressively prosecuting fraud cases. This problem will continue to persist if we do not remain vigilant in the fight against insurance fraud, and the costs will continue to affect the premiums of the citizens of South Carolina. We will continue to look for new and innovative ways to fund the investigation and prosecution of these crimes to recover the losses to the insurance companies and send a message to the criminals that this will not be tolerated in our state."
The Insurance Fraud Division opened 220 files from the 596 complaints received last year, adding to the 213 carried over from 2009. A total of 113 indicted cases were on the court docket at the end of 2010, and there were 774 open files from 2010 and previous years on Dec. 31.
Payment of $320,716 in fines and restitution was ordered by the courts, with another $99,933 in restitution and fines ordered through civil disposition. That means a total of $7.8 million has been collected since the S.C. Attorney General's Insurance Fraud Division began prosecuting insurance fraud cases in 1995. Since then, there have been 1,275 criminal convictions and 728 civil remedies.
* In 2006, one complaint of $10 million was reported.
Highlights of the S.C. Attorney General's 2010 Insurance Fraud Report:
• By far the largest number of complaints came from automobile insurance fraud, at 324 of the 596 total (54 percent). Personal/commercial property fraud was next most common, at 17 percent of the total, followed by health/medical (10 percent) and workers' comp (8 percent).
• Cases have been reported from all over the state and the 220 files opened break down fairly evenly by region as follows:
• Midlands: 27% (60)
• Lowcountry: 25% (55)
• Piedmont : 24% (52)
• Pee Dee: 24% (53)
• Richland County reported the largest number of complaints made, with 62, in an amount of $188,098. A large portion ($167,369) came from 17 complaints of personal/commercial property insurance fraud.
• Lexington County had the largest dollar value of fraud reported, with $11,360,618 (34 complaints). Most of this amount relates to 19 auto insurance fraud complaints.
• Other urban counties were near the top of the list in number of cases: Greenville and Charleston counties (with 55 complaints each); Horry County (44 complaints); Spartanburg County (29); Anderson (19); Florence (18); and York (17).
• Horry County had two complaints of premium fraud, reported at $181,660.
The Insurance Fraud Division has four attorneys working to defeat insurance fraud in the state.
The South Carolina Insurance Fraud Hotline, 1 (888) 95-FRAUD (953-7283), is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for reporting insurance fraud, which can be a felony in South Carolina. All reports remain confidential.