Damage resulting from more than a dozen staged car crashes in Washington State over three years resulted in nearly $1 million in false insurance claims. The collisions often took place at night on desolate roads, so there would be no witnesses. Some claimants placed weights on car seats to get the airbags to deploy. They used hammers to smash windows and sought emergency medical treatment for injuries that did not exist, the New York Times reports. Twenty-three people have been charged for their roles in staging the collisions from 2017 to 2020 and obstructing the subsequent investigation, federal prosecutors said as an indictment was unsealed.
The charges included wire and mail fraud, witness tampering, attempted tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and attempted obstruction of an official proceeding. The claims were for lost wages, bodily injury and property damage. The conspirators calculated that they could get more money by totaling the cars and filing an insurance claim than by selling them to a used-car dealership. “Crash it and get rid of it,” said a participant in the yearslong scheme. Four of the defendants fabricated a story about how an FBI agent assigned to the inquiry and an informant had solicited a $22,000 bribe to make the case go away.