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Three more suspects arrested in staged automobile accident scheme

Julio Caesar Gonzalez (top, from left); Leandro Fonseca; Eduardo Duran Rosales; Carlose Alberto Viera; Yoel Arrastiarojas (bottom, from left); Dorian Abner Inesa; Arlene Manuela Hernandez; Juan Miguel Angel Jr. Dolores (LVMPD/KSNV)

UPDATE

During the course of investigation 31-year-old Robert Mitchell and 36-year-old Dorina Mitchell as suspects in these crimes.

According to police, a teenager was also arrested in connection with these cases.

ORIGINAL STORY

A Clark County grand jury has indicted 24 people on 68 counts of felony charges, accusing them of participating in a staged auto accident ring.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is calling this the largest multi-defendant indictment in the state's history.

The counts against the Las Vegas residents include racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, battery with a deadly weapon (all category “B” felonies), insurance fraud, a category “D” felony, theft in the amount of $3,500 or more, a category “B” felony, and attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more, a category “C” felony.

The charged conduct was committed between September 2014 and May 2017, according to the news release.

The 40-page indictment accuses the suspects of staging more than 20 auto accidents in an effort to get big insurance payouts. Officials say all of the suspects played different roles in the scheme; some of them are suspected of providing the cars that were used, while others are accused of causing the accidents or participating as passengers.

Laxalt says they believe this group has been operating since 2014, and he says this doesn’t just impact the people involved but every resident in the state of Nevada.

"These accidents cost money, and as there are increases across the valley, of course, insurance companies pass that on to us and makes our insurance rates higher," said Laxalt.

The AG's office says insurance companies ended up paying out at least $500,000 for the fraudulent claims. So far, they have arrested 12 of the 24 people who were indicted, but they are still looking for the other 12.

“This indictment sends a clear message of deterrence to fraudsters engaged in dangerous staged accidents in Nevada,” said Laxalt. “Unlike most fraud schemes, which pose an economic danger to potential victims, the alleged conduct put the lives of those on Nevada’s roadways at risk for illicit profit. I am proud that investigators and prosecutors in my office are committed to protecting Nevadans by dismantling this, and similar, sophisticated criminal enterprises.”

Michael Blasky is the spokesperson for AAA of Nevada, and he says an organized ring this large is unusual. But, he says, this is the perfect time to remind drivers to always be aware and be cautious.

"Keep your eyes open. If there feels like something is wrong in your gut, then there's probably something wrong," said Blasky.

Edgar Betancourt-Preval is one of the suspects indicted and is listed as a licensed dentist on Nevada’s State Dental Board Registry website.

News 3 stopped by his office for a response but it was closed.

The AG’s office shared this list of what types of staged accidents to be on the lookout for:

  • 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 brake suddenly. Often times, this staged accident would include two separate automobiles where one driver would pull in front of a co-conspirator’s automobile and brake suddenly for no legitimate reason, giving their co-conspirator cause to also brake 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.
  • 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 their 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. Often, 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's licenses and insurance card information. Those who stage these accidents will often use multiple identification cards with aliases.

Below is a description of the individual charges as listed in the indictment:

  • Julio Caesar Gonzalez (56 counts): One count of racketeering, one count racketeering conspiracy, one count multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, 17 counts of battery with a deadly weapon, 18 counts of insurance fraud, four counts of theft in the amount of $3,500 or more, and 14 counts of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Leandro Fonseca (19 counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, eight counts of insurance fraud, four counts of theft in the amount of $3,500 or more, and four counts of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Juan Miguel Angel Jr. Dolores (eight counts): One count of racketeering, one count racketeering conspiracy, one count multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, one count of battery with a deadly weapon, two counts of insurance fraud, one count of theft in the amount of $3,500 or more, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Jacob Salazar-Morales (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Dorian Abner Inesa (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Eleuterio Morales Ramirez (five counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of battery with a deadly weapon, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Carlose Alberto Viera (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Jose de Jesus Nunez-Badillo (seven counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, two counts of insurance fraud, and two counts of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Yoel Arrastiarojas (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Anthony Robles (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Erick Garcia-Garcia (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Irma Yolanda Meraz-Rangel (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Lian Grave de Peralta Rosales (nine counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the court of an enterprise or occupation, three counts of insurance fraud, and three counts of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Loipa Vuelta Arafet (seven counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, two counts of insurance fraud, and two counts of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Eduardo Duran Rosales (seven counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, two counts of insurance fraud, and two counts of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Jesus Nunez Aranda (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Eloisa Badillo Esparaza (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Lemay Oliver Monzon (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Arlene Manuela Hernandez (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Anilu Vianey Gonzalez (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Yelandis Penichet Vargas (seven counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of multiple transactions involving fraud or deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, two counts of insurance fraud, and two counts of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Jessica Valdes Tarrio (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of attempted theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Edgar Betancourt Preval (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.
  • Jose Alejandro Betancourt (four counts): One count of racketeering, one count of racketeering conspiracy, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of theft in the amount of $3,500 or more.

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

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.

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.

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