Md. Duo Convicted in Phony Auto Accident Scam

February 17, 2005

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced that Shannon Smith, 23, of Baltimore, and Janelle Wiegand, 23, of Laurel, each pleaded guilty in Harford County Circuit Court to felony insurance fraud.

The Honorable Maurice Baldwin, Jr. sentenced each defendant to 10 years incarceration, suspended that sentence and placed them on two years probation. Each was also ordered to perform 40 hours of community service and to pay restitution to the Nationwide insurance company.

In a statement of facts presented by the prosecutor, the court learned that Wiegand and Smith conspired with Michael J. Horner, former owner of an auto repair shop in Harford County, to commit insurance fraud by making fraudulent insurance claims for automobile accidents that never occurred.

After receiving insurance settlement checks for these claims, the defendants reportedly turned the checks over to Horner, who then paid them a portion of the proceeds. Horner, who was charged on Oct. 6, 2004 with felony theft, insurance fraud and conspiring to file numerous fraudulent automobile insurance claims totaling just over $288,000 from January of 2002 through January of 2004, has yet to be apprehended.

Horner’s charges also allege that he carried out this scheme by fraudulently switching V.I.N. numbers from undamaged vehicles to severely damaged salvage vehicles prior to their presentation to insurance claims adjustors for inspection.

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