Two of six South Florida personal injury attorneys facing charges in a wide-ranging insurance fraud investigation have reached plea agreements and are cooperating with investigators.
Steven Slootsky of Steven E. Slootsky P.A. in Boca Raton was the first lawyer to commit to a plea, agreeing to plead guilty to 15 felonies, spend up to five years in prison and pay more than $170,200 in restitution, according to the agreement filed in Broward Circuit Court.
Vincent Pravato of Wolf and Pravato in Fort Lauderdale reached a deal Friday. He faced three felonies: communications fraud, unlawful use of a two-way communication device and patient brokering.
The lawyers are among the six South Florida personal injury attorneys arrested in September for alleged participation in an insurance fraud scheme with lucrative kickbacks. Also arrested were Mark Spatz of Davie, Adam Hurtig of Fort Lauderdale, Alexander Kapetan Jr. of Lighthouse Point and Jason Dalley of Lake Worth.
After a widening multiagency investigation, most of the attorneys faced multiple felony counts charging they paid for referrals from tow truck drivers, auto repair employees and others with access to vehicle accident reports. Prosecutors allege the lawyers used the referrals with medical practices to make fraudulent motor vehicle tort and personal injury protection, or PIP, claims.
Slootsky agreed to plead guilty to all counts against him and enter an irrevocable plea, according to the document filed Oct. 23 by Assistant Statewide Prosecutors Jessica Nordlund and Whitney Mackay, with an acknowledgment by Fort Lauderdale defense attorney Howard Greitzer.
Slootsky faces 15 felonies: organized crime to defraud, unlawful use of a two-way communication device, three counts of solicitation and 10 counts of patient brokering. He entered a contract for a plea agreement with prosecutors, subject to the approval of Judge Michael Usan.
Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of up to five years, at least 10 years of probation and no less than 500 hours of community service. A tentative sentencing date was set for April 19, which would give him months to cooperate before facing the judge.
Slootsky, who has been a lawyer since 1985, would be banned from practicing law in any jurisdiction under the plea deal.
The deal would also require restitution payments to 11 insurance companies, including about $34,039 to Geico, $22,276 to State Farm, $18,433 to Progressive, $16,077 to Ocean Harbor, $15,407 to 21st Century/Security National/Foremost, $15,067 to Liberty Mutual, $14,885 to MAPFRE, $13,843 to Esurance; $8,469 to Windhaven, $5,887 to Infinity and $5,819 to USAA .
Slootsky would also pay nearly $2,937 to the Office of Statewide Prosecution for the cost of prosecution, $5,000 to cover investigative expenses of the Broward Sheriff’s Office and $1,420 to the state Department of Financial Services’ Division of Investigative and Forensic Services.
Court documents show Slootsky gave a sworn statement to investigators and prosecutors on Aug. 24 and agreed to assist them through testimony and other means of building a case against others.
“The defendant will provide sworn, complete and truthful testimony to the state of Florida as directed by the Office of Statewide Prosecution, State Attorney’s Office, or law enforcement, identifying all persons known to him to be involved or have been involved in criminal activity related to the defendant’s charges or persons involved,” according to the plea agreement. “The state of Florida is relying on the multiple, consistent prior oral statements given by the defendant.”
Meanwhile, Usan on Friday signed the plea agreement for Pravato, who agreed to a sentence of five years probation, 250 hours of community service and $16,408 in restitution payments to insurers Geico, Mercury, Allstate and Progressive.
The other cases are pending, but Kapetan, who faces no allegations of solicitation, is fighting the charges and has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Eric Schwartzreich of Schwartzreich & Associates in Fort Lauderdale, said prosecutors won’t succeed in proving Kapetan accepted payment in return for referrals.