Operation Sledgehammer Results in Sentencing of Ninth Person in Car Insurance Scam

October 4, 2013

A Miami woman, who helped manage a widespread car insurance fraud ring from her chiropractic clinic in West Palm Beach, has received a six-year sentence in connection with “Operation Sledgehammer.”

Maria Testa Baceiro, 29, who co-owned the clinic with her boyfriend Luis Ivan Hernandez, pleaded guilty to 48 charges, mostly related to money-laundering and fraud.  Hernandez also pleaded guilty to similar charges and will be sentenced on November 4.

According to prosecutors, Testa collected $4.2 million from Febre’s Medical Center on Forest Hill Boulevard, as well as Universal Rehab Med Group in Miami.  She is the ninth person sentenced as part of Operation Sledgehammer—a federal investigation named for a favored tool the fraudsters used to make millions in South Florida by staging car accidents and filing fake claims with insurance companies.

Of those linked to the scam, 40 have been arrested; however, some of the 92 indicted in June have fled primarily to Cuba to escape prosecution, according to a September 30 Palm Beach Post news article.

Testa and Hernandez also participated in fraudulent activity that operated out of other clinics in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, but prosecutors have been unable to secure financial records in order to put a dollar amount on those losses, the news article said.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Testa to pay $4.2 million in restitution.

Testa, who moved from Cuba to the U.S. as a teenager, apologized for her actions and agreed to testify against others in the case, hoping for a reduced sentence.  According to Testa’s attorney, her mother had to move from New York to raise Testa’s and Hernandez’s 3-year old son.  The judge allowed her to start her sentence December 2.