Auto insurers: False claims on the rise in Minn.

Auto insurance companies say there has been a surge in false and exaggerated personal injury claims in the state in recent years.

The trend is on the agenda of a hearing Monday at the state Capitol.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau says there has been a tripling of suspicious injury claims since 2008. In 2011, Minnesota ranked 10th in the nation, with 53 such claims.

Crackdowns in other states are driving insurance fraudsters to Minnesota, said Mark Kulda of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota.

"Your insurance premiums are being stolen by organized crime, including the Russian mafia," Kulda said. "There is evidence they're here, setting up fake clinics, engaging in staged auto accidents or even just submitting bills for accidents that never even happened."

Hopkins attorney Rick Stempel has represented insurance companies in alleged fraud cases.

"We're working on a staged-accident ring, where we feel there are upwards of 200 or more false claims that have been filed for accidents which did not even occur," Stempel said.

The insurance industry says fraudulent claims result in higher premiums. The industry wants laws that make it easier to pursue those who commit fraud. And they want law enforcement agencies to concentrate more on prosecuting insurance fraud.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has dedicated a prosecutor to focus on insurance and other financial fraud.

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