NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A Haitian man who federal prosecutors say was the ringleader of an auto insurance scam involving as many as 50 staged car crashes was sentenced Monday to four years in prison and ordered to pay $207,000 in restitution.
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Mackenzy Noze, 33, a legal permanent U.S. resident who lived in Norwich, a city in southeastern Connecticut, and more than 15 other people staged the crashes in several towns in and around New London County between 2011 and 2014, authorities said. They fraudulently collected $6,500 to $30,000 in insurance payouts per crash, bilking insurance companies out of an estimated total of $600,000, according to court documents.
Most of the crashes were single-vehicle wrecks on remote roads where the only witnesses were the occupants of the vehicle, prosecutors said.
The crashes included Noze driving other people's cars into trees and other objects, then leaving the scenes while the policyholders got into the vehicles and called for help, authorities said. The policyholders would often tell authorities they swerved to avoid an animal or lost control because of weather conditions.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer in New Haven sentenced Noze, who was convicted of nine fraud charges by a jury in June. He will face immigration proceedings after serving his prison sentence, officials said.
Noze's lawyer, Robert Sullivan Jr., did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday.
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Six other people involved in the scam were also convicted. Some got prison time, while others await sentencing. Several other people who took part cooperated with authorities and were not charged.
Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence of at least six years, while Noze argued he should get fewer than three years.
Noze "was the ringleader of an extensive, multiyear fraud scheme that involved staging car crashes in order to collect on bogus insurance claims," Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi Perry wrote in a court document.
"The trial evidence," Perry wrote, "showed that Mr. Noze planned and had the lead role in executing the scheme, enlisted others to participate, coached his co-conspirators through the claim process, and directed others to pay him part of their ill-gotten insurance payouts."
Sullivan wrote in court documents that Noze had a difficult childhood and started using alcohol when he was 8 or 9 years old and painkillers when he was 26. Sullivan suggested that Noze was not the ringleader, but just one of many people involved in the scam.