Twenty-Two Individuals Charged in N.J. Staged Auto Accident and Fraud Ring

May 23, 2003

New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor has obtained criminal indictments against 22 persons on charges that they planned or participated in the staging of fake automobile accidents in order to collect more than $200,000 from bogus insurance claims. The investigation, including the role of medical providers, remains ongoing.

Harvey said the State Grand Jury returned four separate indictments charging 22 persons with conspiracy, Health Care Claims Fraud and attempted theft by deception. The indictments were handed-up to Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg, the Assignment Judge in charge of the State Grand Jury. The cases will be assigned to the Essex County Superior Court for trial. The defendants will be ordered to appear in court for arraignment and to enter a plea to the charges.

According to Vaughn McKoy, Acting Director, Division of Criminal Justice and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown, the indictments identify the alleged mastermind responsible for staging three automobile accidents in Essex County in 1998 and outline the various roles of the 21 other co-conspirators which resulted in phony Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance claims being submitted to several insurance companies.

The principal State Grand Jury indictment charges Eric Boyer, 33, of East Orange, with one count of second degree conspiracy, Health Care Claims Fraud and attempted theft by deception. The indictment identifies Boyer as the mastermind of the alleged staged accident ring.

A second indictment charges Shaquan McLaurin, 27, East Orange; Kirk McNeil, 33, Irvington; Alnicsa Franklin, 26, Newark; Otis Christopher, 49, Irvington; Rodney Mayes, 35, East Orange; and Raynelle Hamilton, 31, East Orange.

The third indictment charged Tamika Sutton, 27, Newark; Sakinah Hill, 30, Newark; Shinaka Hill, 25, East Orange; Louis McKenzie, 23, East Orange; Valentino White, 72, Union; Vanessa Miller, 41, Newark; Raphael McCray, 39, Newark; Kevin Douglas, 38, East Orange; and Emilio Hayes, 23, Athens, Ga.

The fourth State Grand Jury indictment charges Tamika Sutton (identified in the third indictment); Shonique Carney, 29, East Orange; Sheri Brown, 25, East Orange; Sareesah Houston, aka Jareesah Houston, 24, Newark; Ona Jones, 39, Irvington; Robert Henderson, 57, Newark; and Ali Sawab, aka Abdul Sawab, 37, Newark.

The defendants named in the second, third and fourth indictments have been charged with one count each of conspiracy (2nd degree), Health Care Claims Fraud (2nd degree), and attempted theft by deception (3rd degree). A crime of the second degree carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Crimes of the third degree carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Additionally, the defendants face the possibility of the imposition of civil insurance fraud fines pursuant to the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act.

According to Brown, the indictments allege that between Oct., 1998 and Oct., 1999, Boyer planned and orchestrated three fictitious automobile accidents involving the other 21 defendants posing as passengers in the accidents. The three fictitious accidents resulted in the submission of $204,378 in PIP insurance claims to Progressive Insurance Company, State Farm Insurance Company and Alamo-National Union Fire Insurance Company.

The second indictment charges that Boyer orchestrated a staged accident which purportedly occurred on Oct. 5, 1998 in East Orange. The indictment alleges that Boyer recruited McLaurin, McNeil, Franklin, Christopher, Mayes, and Hamilton to claim they were passengers in a van driven by Boyer and that they were injured as a result of the accident. The indictment alleges that the defendants were treated for their purported injuries and, as a result, $66,053 in PIP insurance claims were submitted to Progressive Insurance. Progressive denied the claims and referred the case to the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor for criminal investigation.

According to the third indictment, Boyer orchestrated a staged accident on Nov. 1, 1998 in West Orange in which a van allegedly driven by Tamika Sutton collided with a vehicle driven by Valentino White. It is alleged that the passengers in the van were Sakinah Hill, Shinaka Hill, Louis McKenzie, Devin Douglas and Emilio Hayes. The passengers in White’s vehicle were purportedly Vanessa Miller, and Raphael McCray. It is alleged that the occupants of both vehicles were treated for purported, yet non-existent, injuries sustained in the staged accident and that PIP insurance claims were submitted to Progressive Insurance and to State Farm Mutual Insurance Company totaling more than $62,193. The insurance carriers paid claims totaling $5,389.

The fourth indictment alleges that Boyer arranged a staged accident which purportedly occurred on Dec. 1, 1998 in Irvington.

According to the indictment, Boyer arranged for Tamika Sutton to report that she had been driving a rented van which had been struck by a hit and run vehicle. The indictment alleges that passengers in the van driven by Sutton included Sheri Brown, Robert Henderson, Ona Jones, Ali Sawab, Shonique Carney, and Sareesah Houston. The indictment alleges that all of the occupants in the rented van claimed they sustained injuries and received medical treatment for the purported injures.

As a result, PIP insurance claims totaling $75,460 were submitted to Alamo-National Union Fire Insurance Company.

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