Fraud News: Arson, Car Jacking Fib and Staged Crash Scam

April 27, 2018

Connecticut Pizza Shop Owner Pleads Guilty to Fraud Stemming From Fire

The owner of a Connecticut pizza parlor has pleaded guilty to a fraud charge for setting fire to his own business and then collecting insurance money.

Federal prosecutors say 32-year-old Mustafa Zabana, an Iraqi national living in Westfield, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty this week to mail fraud.

Authorities say in June 2016 Zabana set a fire at Bruno’s Pizza in Enfield that caused damage to the restaurant as well as other businesses in the mall where it was located. Prosecutors say after the fire, Zabana filed an insurance claim and received a $5,000 check. He then continued to pursue additional insurance payments.

He faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing on June 29.

Zabana was lauded for his good deeds in a December 2015 story in the Journal Inquirer.

Arkansas Woman Lies About Car Jacking to Claim Insurance

LaShay Elmore entered a negotiated plea of guilty to one count of Insurance Fraud and one count of Theft of Property, in the Pulaski County Circuit Court. She was sentenced to five years’ probation, a $1000 fine, Court Costs, 100 hours of Community Service and restitution of $5,671.53 to Allstate Insurance.

In June 2016, LaShay Elmore, AKA LaShay Bone (age 37) of North Little Rock, called the Little Rock police alleging her 2004, red, Chevrolet Suburban, had been “carjacked” while she and Jonathan Burnett were at a party. Burnett supported her allegation. On the same date she filed a theft claim with Allstate. Allstate approved her claim and paid her $5,671.53 on the vehicle. In October 2016, the North Little Rock Police found the vehicle that she alleged had been stolen in her driveway still in her possession.

Burnett previously pled guilty to Insurance Fraud in January 2018.

Nevada Lead Defendant Sentenced in 24 Person Staged Accident Insurance Fraud Scam

Julio Cesar Gonzalez, of Las Vegas, was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for his role in a 24 defendant staged-accident insurance fraud ring, according to an announcement by Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt.

In September 2017, the 24 defendants were indicted by a Clark County Grand Jury on 68 felony counts. The indictment represented the largest multi-defendant indictment in Nevada Attorney General history. In March, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to one count of Multiple Transactions Involving Fraud or Deceit in the Course of an Enterprise or Occupation, one count of Insurance Fraud, and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Insurance Fraud. The charged conduct was committed between September 2014 and May 2017.

Gonzalez and 23 co-conspirators were involved in an alleged scheme that targeted 19 random automobiles throughout the Las Vegas Valley and staged vehicular accidents in order to obtain insurance payouts from false claims. Each defendant played a different role in the conspiracy. Some defendants are accused of having provided the automobiles used to stage the accidents and thefts, driven the automobiles causing the accidents, or participated as a passenger, while others are alleged to have falsely claimed to have been the driver or passenger in order to maximize any insurance payout. In total, the indictment provides that the defendants filed 23 fraudulent insurance claims related to these accidents and thefts. Gonzalez was personally involved in causing at least 17 of the 19 total staged automobile accidents.

Over the course of the investigation, it was revealed that Gonzalez perpetrated his frauds under several names including: Julio Caesar Gonzalez, Julio Caesar Gonzalez- Mejia, Christian Miramon, Cesar Gonzalez, Christian Lopez, Juan Chavez Garcia, Alejandro Reyes-Rodriguez, Roman Contreras Garcia, Eduardo Uribe Pena, Cristian Gonzalez-Gonzalez, Cristian Gonzalez, Erick Cruz, Erik Garcia, Erik Garcia-Garcia, Alberto Hernandez Torres, Yelandis Penichet Vargas, Oscar Pereira Santana, Yoel Arrastia, Lian Grave De Peralta Rosales, Jorge Ayllon-Lopez and Jose Nunez Bandillo.

Gonzalez was sentenced to 24-120 months in prison for the crime of Multiple Transactions Involving Fraud or Deceit in the Course of an Enterprise or Occupation, 12-34 months in prison for the crime of Insurance Fraud, and 364 days in prison for the crime of Conspiracy to Commit Insurance Fraud. All three counts will run concurrent to each other. Gonzalez was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $173,867.51.

A total of nine defendants have pleaded guilty in this case thus far. As to the other eight defendants who appeared in this matter, a trial is scheduled to commence on November 13, 2018. The Eighth Judicial District Court has issued arrest warrants for the remaining seven defendants, many of whom are suspected to have fled the country after learning that they were suspects in this case. The following defendants remain at large: Leandro Fonseca, Jose de Jesus Nunez-Badillo, Erick Garci-Garcia, Irma Yolanda Meraz-Rangel, Jesus Nunez Aranda, Eloisa Badillo Esparza, and Anilu Vianey Gonzalez.

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