Staged car crashes are big money. So big, in fact, that the National Insurance Crime Breau 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-ass car accidents over a three-year period. 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 grift was rather simple on the surface. 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 checks rolled in. From the Herald:
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 in one vehicle so the airbag would deploy on impact, federal prosecutors said. After some of the wrecks, the accused “sought emergency room and medical treatment for fictitious, fabricated and exaggerated accident symptoms and injuries,” and even hired personal injury lawyers to pursue their fraudulent claims, the indictment states.
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 and a Camaro:
In one planned crash, a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro was driven into a 2004 Hummer H2 at Oak Street and 27th Avenue in Kennewick. The Hummer was purchased two months earlier for $200. The buyer then reportedly rolled back the odometer, which likely increased the vehicle’s value.
Two months after the crash, the salvaged Chevrolet was purchased by a Portland-area used car dealership through an internet automobile 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. Often, though, these people waited just a day or two after purchasing the 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 the 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 the 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 can’t be located. One individual is facing 64 charges. And with some of these charges caring 20-year minimum sentences, crime, in this instance, really didn’t pay.