BREAKING NEWS ..... Governor Rick Scott appoints Richard Hersch to the Circuit Court. Congratulations to Richard.
THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:
JUDGE PANDO, FLORIDA WELLNESS, AND PIP SUITS ....
First things first. Horace, you should know by now, that if you want an investigation done right, you should not be turning to Carmel Cafiero, when you have your top notch investigative reporter right here on staff. And with that, I add to your post:
Judge Ana Maria Pando:
A graduate of UM law, she became an attorney in 1988. She joined the Miami City Attorney's office in 1991 and spent most of her legal career there. She was first elected County Court Judge in 2000 and took office in January of 2001. She was re-elected in 2006 and is again running for re-election in 2012.
Florida Wellness & Rehabilitation Center, Inc.
Florida Wellness & Rehabilitation Center, Inc. is owned by Dr. Mark Cereceda. Dr. Cereceda actually owns numerous clinics under the Florida Wellness name. Florida Wellness of Little Havana, Florida Wellness of FIU, Florida Wellness of South Miami, and Florida Wellness of Hialeah are just a few of his locations where his clinics generally treat people injured in auto accidents. They offer physical therapy to their patients along with chiropractic adjustments. They are paid, overwhelmingly, by auto insurance companies, whereby Florida Wellness files claims under the PIP coverage of the injured person's auto insurance policy.
PIP & PIP SUITS
Florida law requires you to carry only two types of coverage as part of your automobile insurance: Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability. Your PIP coverage provides you with up to $10,000 to pay for "reasonable and necessary" medical expenses as a result of injuries sustained in an auto accident.
Dr. Cereceda's clinics submit thousands and thousands of HICF's (Health Insurance Claim Forms) to auto insurance companies on a monthly basis. Sometimes they are paid; many times they are not paid. When they are not paid, it is usually because the auto insurance company has made a determination, rightly or wrongly, that the medical care received was not medically necessary. When Florida Wellness is not paid, they will sometimes get an assignment from the injured patient, and they then file a PIP SUIT against the auto insurance company for not paying them within the statutory time required by law. These cases are filed in County Court, and many of these cases end up in Branch Court in South Dade, Coral Gables, North Dade, and in HIALEAH - before Judge Ana Maria Pando. If they are successful, the Plaintiff clinic is paid the money they are owed, interest on that money, court costs and attorney fees. There are many law firms that work almost exclusively on PIP suits and they make a very good living doing it.
1. On May 4, 2011, Articles of Dissolution were filed by Fastkit Corp. on behalf of Florida Wellness & Rehabilitation Centers, Inc. Fastkit is one of these companies that handle all of the paperwork with the Florida Department of Corporations on behalf of a corporation.
First problem with these Articles is that they were signed by someone who is NOT a Director of the corporation, according to the Florida Department of State. The signature line prints the name Luana Alonso. The signature above it does not appear to be that of a Luana Alonso. It represents that she is a Director of the Corporation. Based on the available research we could locate online, she is not.
2. On October 12, 2011, an accountant by the name of Lestor Barreras signs an Affidavit. Barreras is the CPA for Dr. Cereceda and his clinics. In the Affidavit, Mr. Barreras states that his office inadvertently dissolved the corporation by filing the papers with the Florida Dept. of Corp.
Problem with that is, they did not file the papers. Fastkit did. In all fairness, they may have prepared the papers and forwarded them to Fastkit, who then filed the papers.
3. On October 14, 2011, Judge Ana Maria Pando prepares a letter on her official Judicial stationary. The letter is faxed to Mr. Jay Kassees, Division Director, Division of Corporations. Attached to the letter is the Affidavit from Barreras. In the letter, she refers to Florida Wellness owner Mark Cereceda. She tells the department, "I see no reason not to reinstate the above-mentioned corporation. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. Sincerely, Judge Ana Maria Pando. "
Well, what was she thinking.?! Mr. Cereceda, through his many clinics, appears as a Plaintiff in dozens of cases, all before Judge Pando. The Judge has to rule in each case and her decision will determine whether Mr. Cereceda's clinics get paid their money - his money. What in the world was she thinking?
4. On October 24, 2011, the Florida Department of Corporations acts on the letter sent by Judge Pando. They decide, based on the "Court Order" they received, that they are "re-activating corp. status". They also decide to charge Florida Wellness NO FEE for the reinstatement.
I am attaching to this post the Affidavit from Barreras, the letter from Pando, and the action taken by FDOC. http://www.sunbiz.org/pdf/80709709.pdf
And with that, Florida Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, Inc., is again a registered Florida Corporation. Kind of important because there are hundreds, (currently approximately 200) cases filed in the County Courts of Miami-Dade County where the Plaintiff is listed as Florida Wellness.
5. Judge Pando has opened a campaign account and she has raised $69,685 through the reporting cycle December 31, 2011. Here are some notable contributors:
*Florida Wellness Little Havana, 11/11/11, donated $500.
*Florida Wellness FIU, 11/11/11, donated $500.
*Florida Wellness South Miami, 11/11/11, donated $500.
*Florida Wellness Hialeah, 11/11/11, donated $500.
Performance Orthopaedics, 11/11/11, donated $500. (This writer believes that Dr. Cereceda has an ownership interest in this medical provider).
*One minor problem with the checks that were written by these four corporations in November of 2011. The four corporations did not exist in November of 2011. That's because, in September of 2011, Dr. Cereceda changed the name of all four of the corporations to Ceda Health of Little Havana, Ceda Health of FIU, Ceda Health of Hialeah, and Ceda Health of South Miami. I have no idea whether there is a problem with a Judge accepting checks from a corporation that does not legally exist; or whether Dr. Cereceda violated any campaign donation laws by issuing checks on corporations that no longer existed.*
6. Dr. Cereceda has retained numerous law firms over the past four years to file these PIP suits on behalf of himself and his clinics. As stated above, there are at least 200 such cases currently listed on the Clerk's website. In the past twelve months, there have been at least 34 cases filed in the Hialeah branch court that are now before Judge Pando. All of those cases were filed by either attorney John Llarena of Hess & Llarena or by attorney Todd Landau.
7. The 34 cases filed by Llarena or Landau are all PIP suits filed against automobile insurance companies. Those companies include:
Progressive - 7 cases; State Farm - 11 cases; Allstate - 6 cases; Kingsway Amigo - 4 cases; GEICO - 3 cases; and Responsive, Safeco, and Infinity, with one case each where they appear as a named defendant in these PIP suits. These cases have all been filed between March and December of 2011.
8. Here is a list of some of the attorney/law firm contributors to Judge Pando's campaign that have held themselves out as Plaintiff's counsel for Florida Wellness in the past four years:
***John Llarena, 11/8/11, donated $500.
***Hess & Llarena PA, 11/8/11, donated $500.
***Todd Landau PA, 11/8/11, donated $500.
Buchalter, Hoffman & Dorchak PA, 11/9/11, donated $500.
Paul Schrier, 11/8/11, donated $500.
Paul Schrier PA, 11/8/11, donated $500.
Armando Brana, 11/8/11, donated $500.
Armando Brana PA, 11/8/11, donated $500.
John Friedland PA, 11/8/11, donated $250.
Kevin Whitehead, 11/8/11, donated $500.
Kevin Whitehead PA, 11/8/11, donated $500.
Bernard Butts PA, 11/14/11, donated $500.
Please note that according to our research of the Clerk' s office records, it appears that only Llarena and Landau have cases filed before Judge Pando at the Hialeah branch court. The other attorneys listed above have open cases in other branch courts throughout the County on behalf of Florida Wellness; these cases are not before Judge Pando. In fairness, all of these donations appear to be legal and within the laws of the State of Florida as they relate to donations to a judicial campaign.
So now you have heard "the rest of the story". Care to comment?
CAPTAIN OUT .....