5 South Florida lawyers arrested in alleged insurance fraud scheme

(l-r) Attorneys Adam Hurtig, 46, Alexander Kapetan, 44, Vincent Pravato, 48, Steven Slootsky, 57, and Mark Spatz, 58. (Photo: Broward County Sheriff's Office)
(l-r) Attorneys Adam Hurtig, 46, Alexander Kapetan, 44, Vincent Pravato, 48, Steven Slootsky, 57, and Mark Spatz, 58. (Photo: Broward County Sheriff’s Office)

Detectives arrested five South Florida personal injury attorneys accused of participating in an insurance fraud with lucrative kickbacks.

Arrested were Vincent Pravato, 48, and Mark Spatz, 58, of Davie; Adam Hurtig, 46, of Fort Lauderdale; Alexander Kapetan, 44, of Lighthouse Point; and Steven Slootsky, 57, of Boca Raton.

Investigators say in most cases, the personal injury lawyers paid accomplices $500 to $1,500 per client to refer “unsuspecting vehicle accident victims” to make insurance claims.

Related: New weapons in the war on fraud

Bill auto insurance companies

“The attorneys would in turn refer the accident victim to a health care facility in exchange for a cash kickback of $1,500 to $2,500 per patient,” according to a statement Thursday from the Broward Sheriff’s Office. “After the patient was brokered to the health care facility, the facility would provide treatment and bill the auto insurance companies for claims covered by the PIP benefits.”

The alleged scam reportedly yielded more than $521,000 from May 2015 to December 2016.

Perhaps the most prominent among those arrested is Kapetan, a Harvard University alumnus and founding partner of Wites & Kapetan. He faces nine counts of fraud for alleged violation of the patient-brokering law and one count of using a two-way device to facilitate a felony. His attorney, Eric Schwartzreich of Schwartzreich & Associates in Fort Lauderdale, said Kapetan committed no crime.

“These guys have been lumped together. They don’t know each other,” Schwartzreich said of the five attorneys arrested. “My client is not charged with any solicitation. … He’s not charged with soliciting anyone for anything, nor does he know any of the other parties that have been arrested. He’s not part of any ring, any organization.”

Kapetan has continued to practice but reported his arrest on felony charges to the Florida Bar. His attorney says the incident has taken a toll, and led to a 24-hour incarceration for Kapetan after his arrest.

Related: The art of bodily injury investigations

“They came and arrested them right when the storm (Irma) was coming,” Schwartzreich said. “After the governor had issued a state of emergency … they were all required to turn themselves in. … In the middle of the storm, they had him arrested.”

Kapetan’s other attorneys are prominent ethics lawyer Brian Tannebaum, special counsel to Bast Amron in Miami, and William Shepherd of Holland & Knight.

“We’re confident he’s going to be found not guilty of these allegations,” Schwartzreich said.

None of the other five attorneys charged commented on their arrest.

Hurtig referred inquiries to his attorney, Bruce A. Zimet, who did not respond to requests for comment.

Multiagency collaboration

Investigators, including Detectives Kristy Frederick and Mike Freeley, spent more than a year in a multiagency collaboration. Broward deputies teamed with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, which is part of the Organized Crime Unit in the Sheriff’s Office, and with the Department of Financial Services, National Insurance Crime Bureau, the Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Broward State Attorney’s Office.

The operation also led to the arrest of five other accused accomplices: Elvira Perchitti, 53, and James Perchitti, 61, of Port St. Lucie; Joaquin Barreda, 39, of Plantation; Mark Eskin, 62, of Boca Raton; and Richard Kist, 36, of Jupiter.

Charges include organized fraud, criminal solicitation and patient brokering.

Samantha Joseph (sjoseph@alm.com) is a litigation reporter for ALM Media and the Daily Business Review. Find her on Twitter: @SJosephWriter.

Originally published on Daily Business Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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