A Clark County, Nev., grand jury returned a 68-felony count indictment against 24 Las Vegas residents for their alleged roles in filing 23 fraudulent insurance claims related to staged automobile accidents and thefts.
It is the largest multi-defendant indictment in the history of the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.
The counts include racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, insurance fraud, battery with a deadly weapon, and theft. The crimes were committed between September 2014 and May 2017, according to the attorney general’s office.
Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez issued 17 arrest warrants and five summons for the defendants. Two defendants already were in custody at the time of the indictment.
Some of the defendants will make their initial court appearances between Sept. 21 and Oct. 5, according to the attorney general.
“As alleged in the indictment, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to stage no less than 19 automobile accidents and four thefts with the intent of fraudulently obtaining insurance benefits,” the attorney general’s office said in a news release. “Each defendant played a different role in the conspiracy. Some defendants are alleged to have provided the automobiles used to stage the accidents and thefts, driven the automobiles causing the accidents, or participated as a passenger, while others are alleged to have falsely claimed to have been the driver or passenger in order to maximize any insurance payout.”
Common Car-Crash Scams
Coinciding with the indictment, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office encouraged the public to be wary of the known types of staged auto 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 brake suddenly. Oftentimes, this staged accident would include two separate automobiles where one driver would pull in front of a co-conspirator’s automobile and brake suddenly for no legitimate reason, giving his co-conspirator 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 cellphone call. At that point, the driver will slam on the brakes, causing the motorist to rear end the criminal’s vehicle.
Drivers are encouraged to be wary of how many occupants are in and around the automobile at the time of the crash and thereafter. Drivers also should be aware of their surroundings and note whether additional people show up to the scene who claim to have been involved in the accident, the attorney general’s office noted.
“Oftentimes, these individuals also file insurance claims,” the attorney general’s office added. “If you are involved in an automobile accident, you are encouraged to document any damage to your vehicle with a camera. Victims are also encouraged to document and photograph the driver or drivers involved, all passengers involved, as well as driver licenses and insurance card information. Those who stage these accidents oftentimes use multiple identification cards with aliases.”