Staged “Fake” Auto Accidents
23 People Teamed Up To Make $1 Million Off Staged Car Crashes
In total, several families allegedly defrauded insurance companies out of nearly $1 million. Staged car crashes are big money. So big in fact that the National Insurance Crime Bureau has whole brochures on it. It’s also lucrative enough that one group of people from Washington state pulled off a three year scheme of fake crashes. That is until the feds caught them, as the Tri-City Herald reports.
An 81 page indictment filed in federal court detailed how a group of 23 people orchestrated 14 fake car accidents over the period of three years. It involved a complicated web of lies, cheap vehicle purchases, and rough ingenuity to get it all done. It was a true family affair, with a father and son, three sets of siblings and four married couples making up the group.
The operation was rather complex. Various members would purchase vehicles, get insurance on them, and wreck the vehicles in staged crashes on remote roads just one or two days after getting coverage. The “victims” would then seek out treatment for exaggerated injuries from the “accidents” and wait until the check rolled in.
“No one was inside the victim vehicle during at least three of the staged accidents, hammers were used to break car windows in at least two, and weighted items were placed on the front passenger seat so the airbag would deploy on impact. After some of the wrecks, the accused sought emergency room and medical treatment for fictitious symptoms and injuries. The accused even went as far as to hire personal injury attorneys and pursue their fraudulent claims.”
Sometimes the vehicles that were involved were purchased for pennies or vehicles were bought back after they had been wrecked. Like one crash that involved a Hummer H2 that was purchased for $200.
In one planned crash, a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro was driven into a 2004 Hummer H2 at Oak Street and 27th Avenue. The Hummer was purchased two months earlier for $200. The buyer then reportedly rolled back the odometer to increase the vehicle’s value.
Two months after the crash, the salvaged Chevrolet was purchased by a Portland area used car dealership through an internet auction company. The Chevrolet’s original owner then bought back the salvaged vehicle days later for $5,138.
The four people involved in that incident allegedly received insurance payouts totaling $88,000. However these people oftentimes only waited one or two days after purchasing these vehicles to wreck them. One wreck involving a Toyota Sienna was done the day after it was bought for $2,000.
The very next day the buyer, seller and four others allegedly staged a crash on Court Street and Road 100 in West Pasco between a Toyota and a 2006 Infiniti FX35. The six participants received a settlement payout totaling almost $390,000.
Nine months after this crash, the perps unknowingly communicated with an undercover FBI agent who they thought was someone that wanted in on the scheme. This started the ball rolling on their arrest. They even had someone working on the inside to make everything seem legit. One of the main conspirators had a girlfriend that was a law clerk at a firm who handled all the communication with insurance companies for the claims.
In the three years the group staged accidents, they collected payouts totaling $962,300. Now charges for the group of 23 include everything from mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. Four from the group still cant be located. One individual is facing 64 charges, and some of these charges carrying a 20 year minimum sentence. In this instance the crime did not pay out.
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