The sunny US region riddled with fraud

South Florida counties — including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — make up the organized fraud capital of the U.S. by nearly any measure, according to the Associated Press.

The highest degree of fraud exists within the trio of Medicare, mortgage and identity theft-tax refunds, though other fraudulent practices — false marriages for immigration purposes, unfair markups for mediocre seafood and misusing insurance from fake accidents and fires — are common practice.

"Is it the weather? Is it because it's beautiful and the fraudsters want to live here? Is it because it's such a melting pot and you have organized crime from all ethnic groups?" Kelly Jackson, top agent in the Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigative division in South Florida, told the Associated Press. "Any fraud, it always seems to start here."

It would seem those residing in South Florida are uniquely susceptible to the lure of stealing massive amounts of money from the government. In the last eight years, nine regional strike forces from the HHHS, Justice and Treasury departments have charged roughly 2,300 people who falsely billed Medicare for $7 billion. More than 1,500 defendants were from South Florida, according to the report.

Salomon Melgen, MD, a well-known Palm Beach County optometrist, is among those recently charged. Dr. Melgen is accused in a corruption indictment with his friend New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez (D) for falsely diagnosing patients with eye conditions and performing unnecessary procedures and billing Medicare for up to $105 million.

Today, the most popular trend of fraud in South Florida is identity theft coupled with income tax fraud. Florida is No. 1 in identify theft complaints at about 1993 per 100,000 residents in 2013, according to the FTC. Miami alone had 340 complaints for every 100,000 residents that year. Meanwhile, the number of false federal income tax returns in South Florida is 46-times the national average, according to the Treasury Department, the Associated Press reported.

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