L.A.: “Lawyer held in car crash fraud ring”

by Walter Olson on November 29, 2005

It’s not as if these fraud rings were anything new (more), but a few of the details this time are particularly piquant:

A lawyer recruited 29 people, including some from a Bible study class, to stage more than 60 automobile crashes on Los Angeles freeways and collected millions of dollars in bogus insurance claims, authorities said Wednesday.

Typically members of the ring would head out in two cars onto a freeway and box in an unsuspecting SUV or commercial truck, then slam on the brakes so as to cause an accident for which passengers in the lead car could file a legal claim.

Although no one was seriously injured in the accidents, one victim was forced to close his business after his truck was totaled, officials said….

Among those involved were members of a Bible study group from the Inland Empire, said Marty Gonzales, chief investigator for the California Department of Insurance….

Many of the suspects were illegal immigrants who were promised they would earn hundreds if not thousands of dollars, Gonzales said.

In reality, some were paid nothing….

According to the insurance commissioner’s office, [22-year-old Humberto] Carlon set up the accidents and Laufer [personal injury lawyer Bernard Laufer, 52, of Huntington Park] paid him a fee to represent the phony victims in claims against insurance companies….

Such crash rings are not new to Southern California.

A family of three burned to death on the Long Beach Freeway in 1996 in an accident linked to a crash ring.

(Amanda Covarrubias, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 24).

{ 4 comments }

1 Xmas 11.29.05 at 9:26 am

I believe this scam is known as “Swoop and Squat”.

I’m also pretty sure that a driver of a squat cars got charged with murder when a truck rolled over the car and one or more passengers died.

2 Piotr 11.29.05 at 11:55 am

The sad thing is that this Laufer guy is still licensed to practice and has no public record of discipline. Being a California attorney myself, I like to track State Bar proceedings. It is truly sad how many dishonest and fraudulent lawyers we have in this state and how little the State Bar does to truly enforce professional responsibility and ethices standards.

3 Walter E. Wallis 11.29.05 at 1:29 pm

Years ago, they tried this on someone I know, up in Frisco. When he told her he was not insured, she settled for $50.

4 Overlawyered 04.09.06 at 10:26 pm

“Caution: that vehicle collision may not be an accident”

The L.A. Times tackles a subject often treated in this space (Nov. 29, etc.): organized auto-crash fraud, which is largely premised on the chance of bringing bogus liability claims. According to the National Insurance Crime…

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