A Massachusetts jury found a Lawrence lawyer guilty of auto insurance fraud in a scheme that prosecutors say involved staged accidents and phony victims.
A jury in Salem Superior Court jury deliberated for two days before convicting Charles Lonardo, 45, of conspiracy to commit auto insurance fraud, according to the Essex County district attorney’s office.
Judge Howard J. Whitehead sentenced Lonardo to two and one-half years in prison, but stayed the sentence pending appeal.
Lonardo was one of 16 people, including three lawyers and four chiropractors, that were charged in September 2004 with running an insurance fraud ring.
The death of a 65-year-old grandmother during a staged accident in 2003 shined a spotlight on Lawrence’s auto insurance fraud problems. Officials said the city was one of the hottest spots for auto insurance fraud in the nation.
On Tuesday, Whitehead ruled that there was not enough evidence against Lonardo’s law associate, Deborah Cuomo, or his office manager, Josefina Diaz, for their cases to go to a jury.
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