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Press Release

Columbia Man, Woman Sentenced in $1.1 Million Insurance Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Two Columbia, Mo., residents were sentenced in federal court today for their roles in a $1.1 million insurance fraud scheme that involved false claims of injuries suffered in faked car accidents.

Michael Lee Gene Stapleton, 37, and Latoya Marie Brown, 37, were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark. Stapleton was sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay $166,363 in restitution to his victims. Brown was sentenced to four years in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay $72,069 in restitution to her victims.

On April 6, 2023, Stapleton pleaded guilty to two counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud. On Feb. 14, 2023, Brown pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

This case stems from a long investigation by the FBI into co-defendant Lawrence Courtney Lawhorn, 36, of Kansas City, Mo. (formerly of Columbia), for a series of automobile accidents throughout Missouri. All but one of those accidents were staged. The conspiracy defrauded six insurance companies of a total of $1,234,581 from June 2017 to July 2020.

Lawhorn recruited friends, acquittances, family, and friends of friends to participate in the staged accidents. Conspirators went to various medical providers, claiming injuries from the staged accidents and requesting various testing, such a MRIs, CT scans, and/or X-rays. Conspirators then submitted false claims to insurance companies that they had suffered bodily injuries and that they would be personally liable for any medical bills related to insurance claims. Conspirators, some of whom were involved in multiple incidents, received thousands of dollars, and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars, based on these false claims. However, none of the conspirators made any payments to medical providers and instead used the funds for their personal expenses.

Brown admitted she was involved in three incidents and received a total of $44,269 in insurance payments. Two of the accidents were in Boone County, Mo., and one of the accidents was in Kansas City, Mo.

Stapleton admitted that he and co-defendant Tara Colleen Jackson, 60, of Independence, Mo., who is Lawhorn’s mother, participated in a staged automobile accident in Kansas City, Mo. State Farm issued a $50,000 check to Stapleton and a $50,000 check to Jackson. None of the medical bills totaling $188,920 at Research Medical Center (where Stapleton was treated) and St. Luke’s East Hospital (where Jackson was treated) have been paid.

Stapleton and Brown are among 16 defendants who have been sentenced in this case.

Lawhorn pleaded guilty on June 8, 2023, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Lawhorn also pleaded guilty in a separate and unrelated case to commit wire fraud. His sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

Jackson pleaded guilty on April 6, 2023, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and awaits sentencing.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron M. Maness. It was investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Updated March 6, 2024

Financial Fraud