17 Indicted in La., Accused of Staging Wrecks for Insurance Payments

August 17, 2006

A federal grand jury in Shreveport, La., has indicted 17 people for allegedly staging car accidents in order to get money from insurance companies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Aug. 15.

The indictment was made public following the execution of arrest warrants in Bienville Parish by Louisiana State Police and federal authorities, said U.S. Attorney Donald W. Washington of the Western District of Louisiana.

Each of the 17 defendants is accused of staging auto accidents and making false reports of injuries and damages in order to collect insurance payments. The indictment charges them with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and health care fraud.

The alleged victims include State Farm Insurance Company, Progressive Insurance Company, Allstate Insurance Company and American National Property and Casualty Insurance Company.

The indictments deal with auto accidents that have occurred in rural areas of Bienville, Red River and Bossier parishes. Prosecutors said $130,000 in false claims have been paid since 2001.

Indicted were Carl Theus, 44, – described by prosecutors as the primary organizer of the alleged operation; Orma Mae Allums, 52; Johnny Wayne Cunninghan, 45; Lisa Jackson Drew, 32; Robert Lee Adams, 57; Melbaly Roberson, who’s also known as Melbaly Robinson, 50; Gary Robinson, 46; Carl Sterling Ruffin, 48; Stephanie Hill Ruffin, 44; Robert Stafford, 52; Keetchia Rambo Theus, 45; Victor Lamond Theus, 33; Jacqueline Woods, 27; and Vickie Wright, 31, all of Ringgold.

Also indicted were Ashley Jennette Baker, 21, of Coushatta; Shernatha Trenice Edward, 27, of Bossier City; and Marty Driggers, 36, who’s hometown was not listed. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Driggers currently was in custody on unrelated charges.

Two of the defendants – Drew and Wright – have not been arrested and remain at large, Washington’s office said.

A detention hearing was scheduled Aug. 17 for Carl Theus, Victor Theus and Gary Robinson; the others were released on bond, federal officials said.

Information from: The Times, www.shreveporttimes.com.

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