Two More Defendants Sentenced in Staged Automobile Accident Scheme
Ninety-Two Defendants Have Been Charged to Date in Operation Sledgehammer I-VI
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 28, 2013|
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; Michael J. DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); Jeff Atwater, Florida Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services; and Dave Aronberg, State Attorney, Office of the State Attorney for Palm Beach County, announce that defendants Maykel Marquez, 32, of Jupiter, and Noelia Marichal, 52, of West Palm Beach, were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra for their participation in an automobile insurance fraud scheme involving staged automobile accidents. Maykel Marquez was sentenced to 58 months of incarceration, followed by two years of supervised release, and Noelia Marichal was sentenced to 48 months of incarceration, followed by two years of supervised release. Marquez was ordered to pay $1,177,775.04 in restitution, and Marichal was ordered to pay $1,359,208.73 in restitution.
Each of the defendants previously pled guilty to one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; multiple counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2; and one count of conspiring to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(a)(1), all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h). Maykel Marquez also pled guilty to multiple counts of money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(a)(1)(A)(i), 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), 1956(a)(1)(B)(ii), and 2.
According to court documents, between approximately October 2006 and December 2012, the conspiracy members staged automobile accidents by recruiting individuals, including these defendants, to participate in the accidents. The participants were referred to as “Perro” and “Perra” or “Macho” and “Hembra.” Thereafter, the clinic owners caused the submission of false insurance claims through chiropractic clinics that were controlled by members of the conspiracy. To execute the scheme, the true owners of the chiropractic clinics recruited individuals, who had the medical or chiropractic licenses required by the state to open a clinic, to act as “nominee owners” of the clinics. The co-conspirators also hired complicit chiropractors and therapists who prescribed and billed for unnecessary treatments and/or for services that had not been rendered. Thereafter, complicit clinic employees prepared and submitted claims to the automobile insurance companies for payment for these unnecessary or non-rendered services. Twenty-one clinics participated in this scheme.
Furthermore, according to court records, once fraud proceeds were received from the insurance companies, the co-conspirators also recruited individuals including these defendants, to help the clinics launder the insurance proceeds. Sentencing documents showed that Marquez cashed checks worth $568,517.23 and Marichal cashed checks worth $101,344.26 in laundered proceeds.
Starting with Operation Sledgehammer I in June 2011 and including the defendants charged in Operation Sledgehammer VI, 92 defendants have been charged for their participation in this automobile insurance fraud scheme. Of those 92 defendants, 56 have been charged federally by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, resulting in court-ordered restitution of more than $5 million to the defrauded insurance companies. Thirty-six defendants have been charged by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, the Florida Department of Insurance Fraud, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, and the Greater Palm Beach County Health Care Fraud Task Force for their outstanding work in this case. Mr. Ferrer also recognized the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) for its collaboration and assistance in this investigation. The federal cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Marie Villafaña and the state cases are being prosecuted by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office.