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Nine accused of auto insurance fraud

Updated: December 19, 2013 9:53PM



Nine people are accused of taking part in an automobile insurance fraud ring that ran for four years out of Michigan City, federal authorities allege.

The case, filed in U.S. District Court in Hammond and unsealed Wednesday, claims Michigan City residents Dwayne Ashford, 52, and Robert Lemon, 48, used their shop at 1026 Michigan Blvd., Michigan City, to buy cars used in the scheme and for an owner’s address, insurance policy and title documents connected to the vehicles used.

The men, along with their co-defendants, staged 16 accidents from 2005 to 2009 in order to collect insurance money from various insurance companies.

Those co-defendants are: Tomika Yates, 49, of Grand Prairie, Texas; her sister, Melissa Yates, 37, of Michigan City; Toni Alexander, 42, of Calumet City, Ill.; Andy Mitchell, 54, of Michigan City; Theodus Lanfair, 32, of Grand Prairie, Texas; Archie Hamilton, 48, of Calumet City, Ill., and Roberta Butler, 31, of Valparaiso.

Most of the staged accidents took place in Chicago, although three took place on I-94 near Michigan City and one in LaPorte.

Although some of the staged crashes involved just two vehicles, most used three or four. No information was available as of Wednesday afternoon as to how much money the insurance companies paid out on the fraudulent claims.

Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. Ashford is also charged with one count of mail fraud.

Ashford, Lemon and Butler have all been arrested and released on a $20,000 bond. It was not clear if the other defendants had made their initial appearance as of Wednesday afternoon.

This is the second case in recent months that accused Michigan City residents of taking part in vehicle insurance fraud. Shanise Kelley, 30; Holly McManus, 33, and Gladys Merriweather, 48, were charged in a separate case with taking part in a conspiracy to stage car crashes for insurance money. Those women all pleaded guilty.



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