August 3, 2015
Las Vegas, NV – Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that Martin Curiel-Guerra, 26, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty to one count of multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit, a category “B” felony, and one count of insurance fraud, a category “D” felony. Curiel-Guerra defrauded insurance companies out of more than $10,000 between May and June of 2012.
Curiel-Guerra, with the help of a co-defendant, was involved in a scheme to defraud auto insurance companies by staging car crashes. As the driver, he intentionally caused three separate car crashes and enabled other co-conspirators to make fraudulent insurance claims. As a result of the scheme, the City of Henderson, Nevada Highway Patrol, Nationwide Insurance Company and Sentry Insurance Company suffered losses of more than $10,000.
“Staged car crashes are on the rise in Nevada, and this office will continue to pursue and prosecute these crimes,” said Laxalt. “These staged crashes are extremely dangerous to all involved. I encourage drivers to practice defensive driving and to be aware of the known types of staged collisions.”
The charge of multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit carries a potential 20 year prison term and a fine of up to $10,000. Insurance fraud is punishable by up to four years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000. The sentencing hearing for him is scheduled for December 1, 2015 in the Eighth Judicial District Court.
In a staged car crash, waiting drivers carefully position themselves in order to create automobile collisions with unsuspecting drivers. Criminals often include passengers in their automobiles, who also claim to have sustained injuries, knowing that such claims are difficult to disprove.
The known types of staged car crashes include:
- Swoop and Squat - A driver causes an intentional and unavoidable rear-end collision by abruptly entering the lane in front of the victim, cutting the victim off, pulling in front of the victim, and forcing the victim to break suddenly.
- Drive Down - While an unsuspecting victim attempts to merge onto a freeway, a driver in the adjacent lane directs the victim forward with a hand motion, then deliberately crashes into their automobile and blames the victim for the collision.
- The Wave – Similarly, while driving in heavy traffic, a victim will attempt to merge into an adjacent lane. The driver in the adjacent lane waves to the victim indicating that he or she will make room for the victim to switch lanes directly in front. Just as the victim begins to switch lanes, the driver accelerates and crashes into the rear of the victim’s car, making it appear to be the victim’s fault.
- Sideswipe - The victim is in a dual-turn left lane and unintentionally veers the vehicle into the adjacent lane for a few seconds. The driver in the adjacent lane then sideswipes the victim, and subsequently accuses the victim of driving recklessly.
- T-Bone - The victim begins to drive through an intersection, when a driver intentionally slams into their automobile. The driver then accuses the victim of running the stop sign. This is also called a right-angle or broadside collision.
Drivers are encouraged to be wary of how many occupants are in and around the vehicle at the time of the crash and thereafter. Drivers should also be aware of their surroundings and note whether additional people show up to the scene who claim to have been involved in the accident. Oftentimes, these individuals also file insurance claims.
Deputy Attorneys General Michael C. Kovac and Behnaz F. Salimian prosecuted this case. The investigation of this case was a collaborative effort between the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Unit, the Nevada Highway Patrol, the City of Henderson, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
To view the criminal Information for Martin Curiel-Guerra, click here. To file a complaint about someone suspected of committing fraud, click here. Drivers who believe they are victims of a staged collision should report their suspicions to their respective insurance companies.
(Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)