U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra sentenced three more men involved in cases of staged car accidents to defraud insurance companies as part of Operation Sledgehammer, according to an article in the Sun Sentinel.
- Luis Ivan Hernandez was handed down a sentence of nine years and ordered to pay $4.2 million in restitution. The 40-year old owned six clinics in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, including one with girlfriend Maria Testa Baceiro. Testa was sentenced to six years, as reported in an October 4 post on FLPIPGuide.com.
- Daviel Castro, authorities found, participated in the staged crashes, cashed checks and recruited others in the scheme. The 27-year old West Palm Beach man received a sentence of four years and 10 months in jail and will pay $1.3 million in restitution.
- Aaron Freedlander, 51, a licensed chiropractor in Broward, was sentenced to three years and four months in prison. The Weston resident was ordered to pay a little more than $900,000.
According to federal prosecutors, each of the men had earlier pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud. Hernandez and Castro also faced money laundering charges.
Court documents report that between approximately October 2006 and December 2012, those associated in the fraudulent scheme, including Castro, staged automobile accidents by recruiting individuals to take part. Then, clinic owners like Hernandez submitted false insurance claims through chiropractic clinics that were controlled by members of the conspiracy, authorities said.
Undercover agents christened the scheme ‘Operation Sledgehammer’ after they witnessed suspects using a sledgehammer to make vehicles appear like they had been in a car crash
So far, the operation has led to charges against 92 defendants in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Fifty-six have been charged federally and 36 by state prosecutors.