Alleged Key Suspect in Major Mass. Auto Insurance Scam Pleads Not Guilty

May 2, 2007

A former Lawrence resident who allegedly played a key role in auto insurance scams pleaded not guilty this week to charges of insurance fraud and filing a false Registry of Motor Vehicle document, prosecutors said.

Luis Perez was extradited from Puerto Rico last Friday after immigration officers noted his passport was not in order and his fingertips were burned, allegedly in an effort to mask his identity after three years on the run, The Eagle Tribune newspaper reported Sunday.

Perez is among more than 200 people charged in 2004 in a massive crackdown on auto insurance fraud in Lawrence, which gained momentum after a 65-year-old grandmother was killed in a staged car accident. The woman allegedly had paid for a seat in a car that was going to be crashed, so that she could later file a claim with an insurance company.

On Monday, District Court Judge Thomas Brennan ordered Perez be held on a $250,000 cash bail. He is set to return to court on May 14 for a pretrial hearing, said Steve O’Connell, a spokesman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Perez had been on the run since a grand jury indicted him on the fraud charges in 2004. He was caught by Immigration Customs Enforcement officers as he was trying to leave Puerto Rico. They first became suspicious because his passport wasn’t in order. Then they noticed the scars on his fingertips, according to the newspaper.

Perez told police he had burned his fingers when he accidentally picked up a hot pot. But officers believe he burned them on purpose to disguise his fingerprints, The Eagle-Tribune reported

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