Three Miami People Charged in Cellphone Insurance Scam

April 7, 2022

Florida authorities have charged three Miami people with cellphone insurance fraud after they allegedly submitted 40 fraudulent claims to American Bankers Insurance Co.

The state’s chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, said that his Department of Financial Services’ insurance fraud bureau had found that Learne Perez, her husband, Paul Adelardo Pena Lora, and his twin brother, Leonardo Pena Lora, had obtained cellphone insurance through American Bankers, also known as Assurant.

The trio repeatedly reported their phones stolen, lost or damaged in 2018 and 2019, then allegedly sold their iPhones and Samsung phones to retail stores in Miami for about $500 each. Assurant paid out more than $19,000 on the false claims before company officials became suspicious, Patronis’ office said.

The three were arrested Tuesday and booked into jail in Miami-Dade County.

As smartphones have increased in price in recent years, cellphone insurance has grown rapidly. Some market researchers have estimated the global cellphone insurance market at $23 billion in 2020. Insurance policies can be obtained for a few dollars a month. Allstate, for example, offers a three-year plan for $10.99.

And like auto insurance fraud, cellphone insurance and protection-plan fraud also has grown, and prosecutors have had to delve into the practices. One of the most famous cases was that of Laquitta Brackins of Atlanta. Federal prosecutors said she recruited cellphone users across the city and was linked with more than 3,600 fraudulent claims that produced some 2,900 new phones.

Brackins was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2016.

Industry experts have said as many as four of 10 cellphone claims are fraudulent, according to one report. Experts recommend that insurers record the International Mobile Equipment Identity number, which is unique to every device and can be tracked and blacklisted.

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