News and Press Releases

Eleven More Defendants Plead Guilty in Staged Automobile Accident Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2013

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, Michael J. DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Jeff Atwater, Florida Chief Financial Officer, and Dave Aronberg, State Attorney, Office of the State Attorney for Palm Beach County, announced that defendants Helenne Vazquez, 30, of West Palm Beach, Maykel Marquez, 32, of West Palm Beach, and Juan Francisco Avon, 61, of Miami, pled guilty today for their participation in a staged automobile accident and fraudulent chiropractic clinic scheme that resulted in the theft of millions of dollars from Florida’s automobile insurance companies and Florida drivers. Defendants Yenisleydi Ramos, 26, of West Palm Beach, and Noelia Marichal, 52, of West Palm Beach, pled guilty yesterday; defendants Nelson Felix Martinez Torres, 47, of West Palm Beach, Yanet Hernandez Marichal, a/k/a Yanet Hernandez, 26, of West Palm Beach, and Oscar Montiel Martinez, 34, of Lake Worth, pled guilty on July 23, 2013; defendant Wilfredo Sauceda, 33, of West Palm Beach, pled guilty on July 22, 2013; defendant Alien Moya, 29, of West Palm Beach, pled guilty on July 19, 2013; and Yeisy Chouza, 31, of Miami, pled guilty on July 9, 2013.

Defendant Chouza is scheduled to be sentenced on September 30, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra in West Palm Beach along with three other defendants who entered guilty pleas in June. Defendants Alien Moya, Wilfredo Sauceda, Oscar Montiel Martinez, Nelson Felix Martinez Torres, and Yanet Hernandez Marichal are scheduled to be sentenced on October 21, 2013, beginning at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Marra. Defendants Yenisleydi Ramos, Noelia Marichal, Helenne Vazquez, Maykel Marquez, and Juan Francisco Avon are scheduled to be sentenced on October 28, 2013, beginning at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Marra.

Each of the defendants 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. Some of the defendants also pled guilty to mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2; 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); and 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.

For each count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, substantive mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and substantive money laundering the defendants face a possible maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison. Restitution to the victims of the offenses is mandatory.

According to court documents, between approximately October 2006 and December 2012, the defendants staged automobile accidents and thereafter caused the submission of false insurance claims through chiropractic clinics they controlled. To execute the scheme, the true owners of the chiropractic clinics 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 defendants also recruited individuals, whom they referred to as “Perro” and “Perra,” to participate in the accidents, and others to help the clinics launder the insurance proceeds. The defendants also hired complicit chiropractors and therapists 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.

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 arrested by the Florida Department of Financial Services – Insurance Fraud Division for prosecution 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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