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Defendant Attempted to Make the Case Go Away by Falsely Accusing an FBI Agent and Another Individual Defendant Suspected was an FBI Informant of Soliciting a $20,000 Bribe
Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Ali Abed Yaser, age 52 of Kennewick, Washington pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, making false statements to the FBI, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, and two counts of mail fraud. Yaser faces the following possible maximum statutory sentences: 20 years for each count of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and conspiracy to obstruct official proceedings; 10 years for conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud; and 5 years for making a materially false statement to the FBI. The court also may impose a fine up to $250,000, the payment of restitution, and a 5-year term of court supervision. United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Yaser is scheduled to be sentenced on January 16, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. in Richland, Washington.
U.S. Attorney Waldref stated, “Staging an automobile accident to enrich yourself negatively impacts the entire community by raising insurance rates for law-abiding drivers. Worse still, after learning he was under investigation for staging an automobile accident and defrauding insurance companies, Mr. Yaser repeatedly chose to obstruct official proceedings and conceal his violations of federal law by lying to investigators, falsely accusing an FBI agent of soliciting a $20,000 bribe, threatening a potential witness, and tampering with evidence. Yaser’s corrupt conduct threatened the integrity of the proceedings and was designed to prevent his criminal activities from ever being uncovered.”
According to court documents, in February 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) opened an official investigation into allegations that several individuals were involved in a scheme to defraud insurance companies by staging automobile accidents, and filing false and fraudulent claims with insurance companies, in violation of federal criminal laws. As part of the investigation, the FBI used a confidential human source (CHS) who covertly recorded conversations with individuals suspected of being involved in the staged accident scheme. A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Washington later convened to further investigate Yaser and his co-defendants’ scheme.
During the investigation, the FBI discovered that on May 28, 2019, Yaser staged an automobile accident on County Route 12 in Benton County, Washington. The staged accident involved a Hyundai Sonata, driven by another individual being purposely driven into a Lexus IS driven by Yaser. At the time, a credit union had a lien of approximately $30,018.78 on the Lexus. Yaser subsequently filed fraudulent insurance claims representing that he was involved in an accident and suffered bodily injury and wage loss. Yaser was never injured because he was not even in the vehicle at impact. An insurance company paid Yaser and others approximately $126,990.
In May 2020, the FBI executed warrants to search several residences in Washington and California for evidence of federal crimes. Afterward, Yaser held a meeting at his residence because he suspected someone was providing information to the FBI and warned the CHS to be careful of that person.
In August 2020, Yaser told the CHS that he learned that the individual Yaser suspected was an FBI informant recently visited the CHS. Yaser admonished the CHS for not calling him when the suspected informant visited the CHS. Yaser told the CHS that he would have come over to his residence, closed the garage door, shut off the security system cameras, and killed the individual he suspected was the FBI informant. Yaser told the CHS “they would not have recognized his face from his foot.”
Yaser further encouraged the CHS to call the person Yaser thought was the FBI informant and to convince the person to meet with Yaser at his residence. Yaser directed the the CHS to send an audio-recording of a conversation between the CHS and the suspected informant. Yasir told the CHS, “the recording, you know, will not go to the government.” A few days later, Yaser met with the CHS and discussed plans to file a false, fictitious, and fraudulent complaint against the FBI case agent and the suspected FBI informant. Yaser also sought to persuade others to support this plan to make false allegations against the FBI case agent and the suspected informant. Specifically, Yaser wanted an audio recording of the suspected informant that Yaser could exploit and use to discredit the FBI agent in the case against Yaser.
In late August 2020, Yaser discussed fabricating a story to communicate to the local police and the FBI in furtherance of the scheme to discredit the FBI case agent and the individual Yaser suspected was an FBI informant and to make them unavailable as witnesses. Yaser’s ultimate goal was to have the FBI agent removed from the case. Yaser stated in sum and substance, “We will file a complaint with the police and the police will forward it to them [FBI]” and “[t]he police will turn it upside down on them, it won’t take half an hour and it would reach them.”
In September 2020, when interviewed by the FBI, Yaser tried to make the case against him go away by falsely accusing the FBI case agent, and the individual Yaser suspected of being an FBI informant, of soliciting approximately a $20,000 bribe from a third person. In doing so, Yaser engaged in misleading conduct toward the FBI agents with the intention of hindering, delaying, and preventing communication to these officers and a judge of the United States, of information relating to the commission and possible commission of federal offenses. He also attempted to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, that is, a federal grand jury proceeding and a criminal proceeding before a judge and court of the United States.
“Yaser and his co-conspirators went to great lengths, not only in committing crimes, but also covering them up and attempting to impugn the integrity of agents and the judicial process,” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle Field Office. “There are no victimless crimes. This fraud creates a financial burden for insured drivers as their rates increase from staged accidents.”
“Yaser’s deceitful actions violated laws spanning the jurisdictions of several federal agencies. The fraud the defendant perpetrated, in part, exploited federal health care programs,” said Steven J. Ryan, Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Our agency diligently, working alongside fellow law enforcement agencies, pursues bad actors who target HHS programs.”
“Mr. Yaser took assertive actions to thwart this investigation, but, those actions ultimately failed thanks to the diligent efforts of the case agents, who investigated this case,” said Special Agent in Charge Bret Kressin, IRS Criminal Investigation, Seattle Field Office. “Mr. Yaser even lied and bullied others in hopes he could make his crime disappear. Unfortunately for him, Mr. Yaser learned that our law enforcement team does not back down when it comes to holding fraudsters accountable for their actions.”
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, with the assistance of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. This case is being prosecuted by George J.C. Jacobs, III, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.
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