Four More Defendants Plead Guilty in Staged Automobile Accident Scheme
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 Dr. Aaron Freedlander, 50, of Weston, a chiropractic doctor, Abner Llenderrozo, 30, of Hollywood, a licensed massage therapist, Daviel Castro Martinez, 26, of West Palm Beach, and Elias Munguia, 41, of Miami, pled guilty this week for their participation in a staged automobile accident scheme and fraudulent chiropractic clinic scheme that resulted in the theft of millions of dollars from Florida’s automobile insurance companies and Florida drivers.
The sentencings for all four defendants will occur at a later date to be set by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra in West Palm Beach.
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, and a number of counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2. Some of the defendants also pled guilty to 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, and the four defendants have agreed that they must pay in excess of $2,000,000 of restitution, beginning with partial payments totaling $33,750 at the time of sentencing.
According to court documents, between approximately October 2006 and December 2012, members of the conspiracy 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, including defendant 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. Members of the conspiracy, including defendant Castro Martinez, also served as recruiters, who found individuals, whom they referred to as “Perro” and “Perra,” to participate in the staged accidents. Members of the conspiracy, including defendant Castro Martinez, also were used to help the clinics launder the insurance proceeds. The defendants also hired complicit chiropractors and therapists, including defendants Freedlander and Llenderrozo, 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 Insurance Fraud 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.
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.