16 Charged in Lowell, Mass. Staged Accident Scheme

October 13, 2005

Nine individuals have been arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court in Cambridge, Mass. in connection with an insurance fraud scheme that included the staging of several motor vehicle collisions in Lowell, Tyngsborough, and Bedford. Another 7 individuals were also indicted in connection with the scheme and warrants have been issued for their arrests.

These charges come as the result of an extensive investigation conducted by the Lowell Community Insurance Fraud Initiative Task Force, a joint initiative of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, the Lowell Police Department, and the Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau.

According to authorities, on three separate dates in April and May of 2004, Eric Bonnette, of Worcester, who was allegedly working for two insurance fraud “runners,” Mercy Encarncion and Damaris Matos, both also of Worcester, is alleged to have recruited three individuals from the Worcester area to loan their cars for the purpose of engaging in staged collisions and to be present in the vehicles at the time of those collisions. On each of these three occasions, Bonnette allegedly drove the borrowed car, and met with Encarncion and Matos in a parking lot. Bonnette was allegedly given instructions by Encarncion and Matos as to which vehicle to follow and purposefully strike. Authorities allege that Bonnette then followed the second car, and eventually purposefully collided with it in a staged “accident.”

The individuals in the three vehicles which were struck by Bonnette in the staged collisions are also alleged to have filed false motor vehicle insurance claims, claiming pain and suffering.

In two of the three staged accidents, the insurance companies paid out more than $60,000 on the insurance claims. With respect to the third staged accident, the insurance companies were suspicious of fraud and no monies were paid ou on more than $50,000 in claims.

After a year-long investigation by the CIFI Task Force, the cases were presented to a Middlesex Grand Jury, which resulted in a total of 94 indictments against the 16 defendants. The indictments were returned on September 27, 2005.

Established in September 2004, the Lowell CIFI Task Force was created in response to the region’s high incidence of fraudulent auto insurance claims, including auto theft, collision, and injury claims.

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