Staged crashes wreck cars, familiesBy James Quiggle
January 13, 2014
Some of the biggest victims of insurance fraud are the smallest ones — innocent children.
Ana Ovando abused her five kids, aged three to 16, as pawns in dangerous staged crashes for auto-insurance payouts in South Florida. Her conviction tore apart the family, leaving the kids tearful, scared and lost without their mother.
Ovando belonged to a gang that staged crashes on South Florida’s roadways. She maneuvered a vehicle into low-impact collisions so she and her passengers could make fake whiplash injury claims against auto insurers.
She stuffed the kids into the cars for three setup wrecks. They were vulnerable to death or injury if the crashes spun out of control.
“These children were exposed to physical danger — Ovando put them in a vehicle with the full knowledge that they would be in an automobile accident on a city street. Having the children present in the vehicle made the accident look more ‘real,’ and Ovando hoped that it would keep the insurance companies from suspecting fraud,” prosecutors wrote in seeking a stiff sentence.
The kids survived the crash ordeals intact. But Ovando abused them again by forcing them to submit to worthless chiropractic treatments so the ring could falsely bill no-fault insurers for useless treatment. With no medical value, the treatment could’ve harmed the kids.
Ovando’s child abuse climaxed when she told her children to lie in court about her insurance con after she was busted. Ovando was too intent on saving her hide to care that she — as a parental role model — had ordered them to commit perjury.
The kids still knew the staged crashes were wrong. Wire taps before Ovando’s bust overheard them begging her to leave them out of the crimes, and pleading with her to lead an honest home life.
The children cried on the witness stand during her trial, and begged the judge for lenience.
Prosecutors hadn’t planned to have Ovando’s 7-year-old daughter testify, but the child wandered onto the witness stand, determined to support her mother. She spoke incoherently between sobs, but stated an emphatic “yes” when the judge asked her if she loved her mommy and wanted her to come home.
Ovando’s oldest child said she wanted to go to college because “I don’t want to live like my parents.” But she was forced to drop out of high school to help care for her siblings, working at a fast-food restaurant.
Their father Pedro had to leave his job as a long-distance trucker to help care for the kids.
Despite the show of family support, the judge came down hard. Ovando received 6 ½ years in prison and must repay $71,300 stolen from auto insurers.
“My mom got very sick... I couldn’t show any weakness. I had to stay strong for her and my brother.”Ovando actually may have received a virtual life sentence, of another kind. The judge ordered her handed over for deportation to her native Dominican Republic after her jail term.
Her five kids collapsed into tears. They told the judge home much they love their mother and wanted her back home together as a family.
Other families have endured insurance-induced misery. The children of Thomas and Leticia Trucios faced unthinkable trauma when another couple hired Thomas to burn down their Long Beach, Calif. house for an insurance payout.
He was an amateur arsonist and spread too much gasoline inside. The brew exploded when he tried to light the fire. Trucios was burned over most of his body. He was blown out of the house, but somehow called his family for help. They raced him to the hospital, where he died later that day.
The homeowners received stiff jail terms. Trucios’ grieving family also fell hard. They lost their main source of emotional and financial support, Leticia and their daughter said.
Leticia was so traumatized that she couldn’t function and lost her job.
His daughter, who’d just graduated from high school, had to support the family. She worked two jobs — from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight.
“My mom got very sick...” she wrote. “I couldn’t show any weakness. I had to stay strong for her and my brother.”
Leticia will live in her own private cell. “I have been sentenced for the rest of my life,” she tearfully told the court.
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