News and Press Releases

Six More Defendants Sentenced and One More Defendant Pleads Guilty in Staged Automobile Accident Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 4, 2014

92 defendants have been charged to date in Operation Sledgehammer I-VI

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Jeff Atwater, Florida Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services, and Dave Aronberg, State Attorney, Office of the State Attorney for Palm Beach County, announce that defendants Elias Sebastian Munguia, 41, clinic owner, of Miami, Aleida Capdevila, 62, clinic office manager, of West Palm Beach, Yenisleydi Ramos, 26, front desk receptionist and secretary, of West Palm Beach, Juan Francisco Avon, 62, licensed massage therapist, of Miami, Oscar Montiel Martinez, 34, staged accident participant, recruiter and check casher, of Lake Worth, and Teresita Mena, 52, staged accident participant and check casher, of West Palm Beach, were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra for their participation in an automobile insurance fraud scheme involving staged automobile accidents. Also announced today is the guilty plea of defendant Amaury Tomas Contino, 30, staged accident recruiter, of Lake Worth, for his involvement in said scheme.

Specifically, Elias Sebastian Munguia was sentenced to 102 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release; Aleida Capdevila was sentenced to 53 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release; Yenisleydi Ramos was sentenced to 50 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release; Juan Francisco Avon was sentenced to 38 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release; Oscar Montiel Martinez was sentenced to 76 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release; and Teresita Mena was sentenced to 66 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. In addition, Munguia was ordered to pay $3,491,516.93 in restitution; Capdevila was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,039,928.19; Ramos was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,666,028.08; Avon was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $866,801.60; Martinez was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,359,208.73 and Mena was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,321,459.87.

Each of the defendants previously pled guilty to one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; and multiple counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2. In addition, Munguia, Capdevila, Ramos, Martinez and Mena pled guilty to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(a)(1), all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h). Mungia, Capdevila and Mena also pled guilty to multiple counts of money laundering, and Martinez pled guilty to one substantive count of money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(a)(1)(A)(i), 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), 1956(a)(1)(B)(ii), and 2.

Amaury Tomas Contino pled guilty today to one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, and six counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2. Judge Marra will sentence Contino on April 18, 2014 at 3:00 p.m. in West Palm Beach. At sentencing, Contino faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and substantive mail fraud, to be followed by up to three years of supervised release. Contino also will be ordered to pay restitution to the victims of his offenses.

According to court documents, between approximately October 2006 and December 2012, the conspiracy members staged automobile accidents by recruiting individuals to participate in the accidents. Oscar Montiel Martinez and Teresita Mena served as accident participants and Oscar Montiel Martinez and Amaury Tomas Contino recruited others to participate in staged accidents. The participants were referred to as “Perro” and “Perra” or “Macho” and “Hembra.” Thereafter, the clinic owners, including defendant Munguia, caused the submission of false insurance claims through chiropractic clinics that were controlled by members of the conspiracy. To execute the scheme, the true owners of the chiropractic clinics, including Munguia, recruited individuals who had the medical or chiropractic licenses required by the state to open a clinic, to act as “nominee owners” of the clinics. The co-conspirators also hired complicit licensed chiropractors, and licensed chiropractic physicians’ assistants, including Juan Francisco Avon, who prescribed and billed for unnecessary treatments and/or for services that had not been rendered. Thereafter, complicit clinic employees, prepared and submitted claims to the automobile insurance companies for payment for these unnecessary or non-rendered services. Twenty-one clinics participated in this scheme. Elias Munguia was the “true owner” of three of those clinics. Munguia’s aunt, Aleida Capdevila, served as the office manager of two of the clinics.

Furthermore, according to court records, once fraud proceeds were received from the insurance companies, the clinic owners, including Munguia and Capdevila, also recruited individuals including Oscar Montiel Martinez, Yenisleydi Ramos, and Teresita Mena, to help the clinics launder the insurance proceeds.

Starting with Operation Sledgehammer I in June 2011 and including the defendants charged in Operation Sledgehammer VI, 92 defendants have been charged for their participation in this automobile insurance fraud scheme. Of those 92 defendants, 56 have been charged federally by the U.S. Attorney's Office, resulting in court-ordered restitution of more than $5 million to the defrauded insurance companies. Thirty-six defendants have been charged by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.

Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, the Florida Department of Insurance Fraud, the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, and the Greater Palm Beach County Health Care Fraud Task Force for their outstanding work in this case. Mr. Ferrer also recognized the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) for its collaboration and assistance in this investigation. The federal cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Marie Villafaña and the state cases are being prosecuted by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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