Criminal Justice

Lawyer pleads guilty in staged accident scheme; victims underwent unnecessary surgery

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A New York lawyer has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for participating in a scheme involving phony trip-and-fall accidents and fraudulent lawsuits.

Marc Elefant, 51, of New York City pleaded guilty Monday, according to a Department of Justice press release and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. He agreed to forfeit more than $955,000 to the United States and to pay nearly $1.5 million in restitution. The crime also carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison.

Participants in the scheme recruited more than 400 people, including homeless people and drug addicts, to go to a location and deliberately fall or to claim that they had fallen, prosecutors say. Those people were told to receive chiropractic and medical treatment. They were also paid to obtain unnecessary surgery in amounts that typically ranged from $1,000 to $1,500, according to the DOJ press release.

The participants in the scheme collectively sought to defraud scam victims out of more than $31 million, prosecutors say.

Elefant filed lawsuits against insurers or owners of the accident sites on behalf of the phony victims. A doctor accused of participating in the scheme have already pleaded guilty.

Sentencing for Elefant is set for Jan. 25.

Publications that covered Elefant’s guilty plea include Law360, Bloomberg Law and Reuters.

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