Three more people have pleaded guilty to a series of staged car accidents in an insurance fraud ring that involved a total of 24 defendants and 68 felony counts.
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced that the defendants that pleaded guilty include 39-year-old Julio Caesar Gonzalez of Las Vegas, 34-year-old Lian Grave de Peralta of Las Vegas, and 29-year-old Loipa Vuelta Arafet of Las Vegas.
That brings the total number of guilty pleas to eight. Others include Arlene Manuela Hernandez, 25, of Las Vegas; Lemay Oliver Monzon, 29, of Las Vegas; Anthony Robles, 19, of Las Vegas; Jessica Valdes Tarrio, 27, of Las Vegas; and Yelandis Penichet Vargas, 32, of Las Vegas.
The above defendants were indicted in September 2017 after staging approximately 19 automobile accidents and four thefts with the intent to fraudulently obtain insurance benefits.
According to a press release from Laxalt, each defendant played a different role in the conspiracy. Some allegedly provided the vehicles used to stage the accidents and thefts; others drove the cars to cause the accidents. More people also allegedly falsely claimed to have been the driver or passenger to maximize any insurance payout.
“Those who stage car accidents as part of a scheme to defraud insurance companies not only commit financial crimes against insurers and their customers, but also against innocent drivers endangered by their reckless actions,” said Laxalt. “I continue to be proud of my Insurance Fraud Unit for ensuring that those who attempt to defraud companies for their own benefit receive justice."
The Office of the Nevada Attorney General is encouraging Nevadans to be especially wary of the following known types of staged automobile accidents:
Swoop and Squat – A driver causes an intentional and unavoidable rear-end collision by abruptly entering the lane in front of the victim, cutting the victim off, pulling in front of the victim, and forcing the victim to break suddenly. Oftentimes, this staged accident would include two separate automobiles where one driver would pull in front of a coconspirator’s automobile and brake suddenly for no legitimate reason, giving his coconspirator cause to also brake suddenly.
Drive Down - While an unsuspecting victim attempts to merge onto a freeway, a driver in the adjacent lane directs the victim forward with a hand motion, then deliberately crashes into their automobile and blames the victim for the collision.
Sideswipe - The victim is in a dual-turn left lane and unintentionally veers the vehicle into the adjacent lane for a few seconds. The driver in the adjacent lane then sideswipes the victim and subsequently accuses the victim of driving recklessly.
Panic Stop – A driver, typically driving an older vehicle filled with passengers, will position his/her car in front of the victims while a backseat passenger waits until the innocent motorist gets distracted, such as by a cell phone call. At that point, the driver will slam on the brakes, causing the motorist to rear end the criminal’s vehicle.
If you believe you've been a victim of a staged collision, report your suspicions to your insurance company. More information on staged car accidents is available at the National Insurance Crime Bureau's website.