92 Accused in Staged Accident Fraud Ring, $20 million in Fraudulent Claims
According to investigators, charges were brought on Thursday against 33 people allegedly involved in fraudulent insurance claims totaling $20 million. The Sun-Sentinel reported the following on the three year long investigation:
Operation Sledgehammer, a state and federal investigation, has led to charges being filed against a total of 92 defendants from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Those already convicted have been ordered to pay more than $5 million in restitution to insurance companies so far, prosecutors said.
Of the 92 people charged in the ring, five of the defendants, including alleged ringleaders Vladimir Lopez, 38, and Lazaro Vigoa Mauri, 45, have fled to Cuba. According to authorities, the other defendants who have not yet been caught are considered fugitives.
Also from the Sun-Sentinel report:
[t]he investigation was kicked off by a tip from a member of the public and urged anyone with information to call their local police department.
The participants in the fraud were trained by recruiters on how to make the accidents look realistic, how to file police reports and insurance claims, how to fake injuries and where to go for treatment . . . The ringleaders made sure that insurance checks were deposited into accounts they controlled so they could pay the participants…
The full article from the Sun-Sentinel is available here.