Nineteen individuals out of a suspected 22-member accident insurance fraud ring have been arrested by FBI and Dallas/Ft. Worth-based law enforcements officers. The defendants have been charged in a federal indictment with participating in a massive staged accident scheme, according to U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper of the Northern District of Texas. The 71-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury last week and unsealed yesterday.

"Today's announcement is a result of our continuing efforts to investigate staged automobile accidents in the Dallas area. The 22 criminal indictments obtained, and 19 persons taken into custody yesterday, demonstrate the commitment of the FBI, along with our law enforcement partners and private sector insurance investigators, to ensure the safety of our North Texas communities," says Robert E. Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the Dallas division of the FBI. "The staging of contrived automobile accidents on our streets poses a significant danger to innocent citizens and ultimately contributes to rising insurance premiums and health care costs."

An elaborate, sophisticated operation that involved the staging of contrived accidents oft using previously damaged vehicles, and the subsequent filing of false medical and insurance claims, the scam purportedly defrauded victim insurance companies of more than $1 million during June 22, 2002 to January 18, 2006.

"Crimes that are motivated by money always leave a money trail and that is where IRS Criminal Investigators can provide the most expertise!" said Erick Martinez, special agent in charge for the Dallas field office. "Our Special Agents are called upon to use their financial skills and expertise to unravel criminal enterprises as alleged in this case. IRS Criminal Investigation will aggressively pursue fraudulent schemes and work with other law enforcement agencies investigating the illegal activities from both tax and money laundering perspectives to ensure that criminals are held accountable."

The ingenuity behind the scam is credited to lead defendant Tuan Nguyen, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, 41 counts of mail fraud and aiding and abetting, one count of conspiracy to launder money and 25 counts of money laundering and aiding and abetting. The indictment charges all 22 defendants with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and health care fraud. All but one of the defendants is charged with at least one count of mail fraud. Fourteen defendants are also charged with conspiracy to launder money and all 14 are charged with at least one count of money laundering.

If convicted, the conspiracy to commit mail fraud and health care fraud count (Count 1) carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.