New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that a Mercer County woman charged earlier this year with masterminding a sophisticated “staged” automobile accident ring which operated in the Camden County area has been sentenced to five years in state prison for planning and/or participating in dozens of fake automobile accidents which netted more than $500,000 in bogus insurance claims.
According to Vaughn McKoy, Director, Division of Criminal Justice and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden-Brown, Iris Salkauski, 46, of Mercer County, was sentenced in Camden County Superior Court to five years in state prison and ordered to pay a $235,000 civil insurance fraud fine pursuant to the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act. Salkauski’s bail was revoked and she was taken into custody to begin serving the five-year state prison term.
Gooden Brown noted that Salkauski, along with 48 other individuals, were charged on Jan. 13 by the State Grand Jury with conspiracy, theft by deception and attempted theft by deception.
The 10 indictments charged that over a two and one-half year period from Dec. 9, 1996 through May 27, 1998, the defendants participated in the “staged” automobile accident ring by posing as injured “victims” and by submitting fraudulent insurance claims to several insurance companies, including the Allstate Insurance Company. The staged accidents took place primarily in the Camden County area – most frequently in Camden and Pennsauken.
In pleading guilty before Camden County Superior Court Judge David Eynon on Sept. 8, Salkauski reportedly admitted that she orchestrated the “staged” accidents; recruited the participants or “victims” for each of the “staged” accidents; paid the “victims” for their participation in the “staged” accidents and directed the “injured victims” on how and where to obtain medical care and legal services.
Gooden Brown said that co-defendant Miguel Roman, 58, of Trenton, (identified as Salkauski’s husband) was also sentenced by Judge Eynon to three years probation, 150 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $1,500 civil insurance fraud penalty. Roman pled guilty to conspiracy, admitting that on July 17, 1997, he was the driver of a vehicle involved in a staged accident in Camden.
The investigation by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor reportedly determined that the defendants would “stage” fake automobile accidents by purposely crashing cars into one another or into fixed objects. The motor vehicle accidents would be reported to area police departments, after which the “victims” would seek and obtain treatment for purported injures sustained as a result of the “staged” accidents. At least one “staged” accident involved undercover law enforcement officers posing as one of the participants of the illegal scheme.
Ultimately, fraudulent personal injury protection (PIP) claims totaling $567,940 were submitted to the Allstate Insurance Company for payment or reimbursement of medical expenses and pain and suffering costs.
Following the indictment, Salkauski reportedly fled New Jersey and was listed as a Division of Criminal Justice “12 Most Wanted Fugitive.” On March 5, Salkauski was located and arrested inside a Kissimmee, Osceloa County, Florida residence. Arresting officers are reported to have found Salkauski hiding in a bedroom closet. The arrest was made without incident and Salkauski was returned to New Jersey.
To date, 25 defendants have pled guilty or have been ordered by the Court into a pretrial intervention program on charges related to the Salkauski “staged accident” indictments. The defendants have been sentenced to terms of incarceration in state prison, probation, community service and/or ordered to pay restitution or civil insurance fraud penalties.
Court action remains pending against five defendants, while 17 defendants have been listed as fugitives and face arrest for failure to appear at scheduled court proceedings.
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