- At least 23 people were indicted in connection to pre-planned car accidents, according to the DOJ.
- They made almost $1 million in insurance claims between 2017 and 2020, according to the indictment.
- Four of the defendants are considered fugitives and have yet to be taken into custody.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation indicted 23 people on more than 100 counts in connection to approximately 14 pre-arranged car accidents that earned them an estimated $1 million in insurance claims, according to a Monday press release.
The defendants face 138 counts in total, according to the press release from the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.
If convicted, they could spend up to 55 years in prison — 20 years for "conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud," an additional 20 years for "conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding," 10 years for "conspiracy to commit health care fraud," and five years for "making false statements to the FBI," according to the release.
According to an 81-page indictment filed last month, the defendants are accused of planning the collisions, orchestrating them mostly on secluded roads where only the accused defendants could be witnesses to the crash, fraudulently making insurance claims, and fabricating or exaggerating injuries between July 4, 2017, and September 25, 2020.
In some instances, there were no drivers or passengers in at least one of the cars — in which case they used a weighted object to ensure the car's airbag deployed — and hammers were used to break windows of vehicles, according to the indictment.
The defendants range from 20 to 51 years old and hail from Washington, California, Michigan, and Nevada, as well as one defendant from British Columbia, Canada.
Four of the individuals have yet to be arrested and are currently considered fugitives, according to the press release.
Attorney Alexander H. Fuqua who represents four of the 23 individuals told Insider in an email that the believes the government's case is "overreaching."
"From what had been shared with me, the evidence against the people I've represented mainly rely on hearsay statements with scant direct evidence," Fuqua said.
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Attorneys representing the other 19 defendants were not immediately available to respond to Insider's emails.
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