Attorney General Laxalt Announces 3 More Guilty Pleas in Staged-Accident Insurance Fraud Ring Involving 24 Defendants and 68 Felony Counts


March 1, 2018

A total of 8 defendants have pleaded guilty

     Las Vegas, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that three more defendants, previously charged in a 24 defendant staged-accident insurance fraud ring, each pleaded guilty in court this morning for their roles in the case. The defendants include: Julio Caesar Gonzalez, 39, of Las Vegas; Lian Grave de Peralta Rosales, 34, of Las Vegas; and Loipa Vuelta Arafet, 29, of Las Vegas. Defendant Gonzalez pleaded guilty to one count of Insurance Fraud, a category “D” felony, Multiple Transactions Involving Fraud or Deceit in the Course of an Enterprise or Occupation, a category “B” felony, and Conspiracy to Commit Insurance Fraud, a gross misdemeanor. The remaining two defendants each pleaded guilty to one count of insurance fraud, a category “D” felony. In total, 8 defendants have pleaded guilty to felonies related to this case.  

    In September of 2017, these defendants, along with 19 others, were indicted by a Clark County Grand Jury on 68 felony counts. The indictment represents the largest multi-defendant indictment in Nevada Attorney General history. As alleged in the original indictment, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to stage no less than 19 automobile accidents and four thefts with the intent to fraudulently obtain insurance benefits. Each defendant played a different role in the conspiracy. Some defendants are alleged to have 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 defendants filed 23 fraudulent insurance claims related to these accidents and thefts.  

    “Those who stage car accidents as part of a scheme to defraud insurance companies not only commit financial crimes against insurers and their customers, but also against innocent drivers endangered by their reckless actions,” said Laxalt. “I continue to be proud of my Insurance Fraud Unit for ensuring that those who attempt to defraud companies for their own benefit receive justice.”  

    The terms of the plea agreements reached with these three defendants reflect their relative culpability in relation to the overall scheme, as well as their early acceptance of responsibility for their actions. On February 8, 2018, five additional defendants who were charged in this matter pleaded guilty to felony charges. As to the other nine defendants who have 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. To report information regarding their whereabouts, please call 702-486-3214.  

    Multiple Transactions Involving Fraud or Deceit in the Course of an Enterprise or Occupation is punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $10,000. Insurance Fraud is punishable by up to four years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $5,000. Conspiracy to Commit Insurance Fraud is punishable by a jail term of up to 364 days and a fine of no more than $10,000. The sentencing hearing for Julio Caesar Gonzalez is scheduled for April 19, 2018, and the sentencing hearings for Lian Grave de Peralta Rosales and Loipa Vuelta Arafet are scheduled for June 28, 2018. These hearings will take place in the Eighth Judicial District Court. The sentencing hearings for the five defendants who previously pleaded guilty in this matter are scheduled for May 17, 2018 in the same court.  

    An indictment is merely a charging document; every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

    In an effort to combat fraud and to avoid being victimized by a staged accident, the Office of the Attorney General encourages all Nevadans to be especially wary of the known types of staged automobile accidents:

      • Drive Down - While an unsuspecting vicitim 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.

        • 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.

          • Panic Stop - A driver, typically driving an older vehicle filled with passengers, will position his/her car in front of the victims while a backseat passenger waits until the innocent motorist gets distracted, such as by a cell phone call. At that point, the driver will slam on the brakes, causing the motorist to rear end the criminal's vehicle.

            Drivers are encouraged to be wary of how many occupants are in and around the automobile 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. If you are involved in an automobile accident, you are encouraged to document any damage to your vehicle with a camera. Victims are also encouraged to document and photograph the driver or drivers involved, all passengers involved, as well as driver licenses and insurance card information. Those who stage these accidents oftentimes use multiple identification cards with aliases. 

            Drivers who believe they are victims of a staged collision should report their suspicions to their respective insurance companies. For more information on staged automobile accidents, visit the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s website at https://www.nicb.org/

             This case was investigated and is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Unit. This Unit partnered with several insurance companies during the investigation and prosecution of this case. The amended indictments against the defendants are attached. 

               

               2018-03-01-gonzalez sized  2018-03-01-deperalta sized  2018-03-01-arafat-sized
              Gonzalez, Julio Caesar De Peralta Rosales, Lian Grave Arafat, Loipa Vuelta

                (Photos courtesy of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)

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                    Page Last Updated:3/1/2018