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South Passaic Daily Voice serves Clifton, Haledon, Hawthorne, Little Falls, North Haledon, Passaic, Paterson, Prospect Park, Totowa, Wayne & Woodland Park

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Passaic man admits staging bogus car crashes for $179,210 in insurance payments

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

BEYOND BERGEN: The ringleader of a crew that staged car crashes for insurance payouts will be sentenced to five years in state prison after pleading guilty today to orchestrating two schemes in 2010 that cost insurers $179,210 for medical treatment and personal injury settlements.

Olivares R. Liberato-Cohen, 46, of Passaic, also must combine with his co-conspirators to repay the money, under the terms of his plea bargain.

“A car accident is a worst-case scenario for any driver or passenger,” state acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said this afternoon. “This pursuit not only defrauded insurance companies. [I]t also put the public’s safety at risk.”

Liberato-Cohen admitted recruiting the participants, directing how the accidents would occur, and then telling the participants where to get treated for the two crashes on Aug. 19 and Oct. 17, 2010.

Plymouth Rock, GEICO, CURE and RepWest all assisted in the state probe, New Jersey acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi said.

“This scheme and ones like it have far-reaching effects on the rates insurance customers have to pay because multiple sectors of the industry have to pay out for claims,” Chillemi said. “Bogus claims have residual and multiplying effects, which often result in artificially spiked premiums passed on to consumers.

“The only way to stop that from happening is vigorous prosecution, which deters others from trying.”

Liberato-Cohen is also facing charges from a separate indictment that alleges his planning of another staged car accident in 2009.

In that one, authorities charge, he purposely drove his Dodge Caravan containing three co-conspirators into a Dodge Avenger, driven by an unindicted co-conspirator who agreed to cooperate with investigators.

The three in the Caravan all pleaded guilty last month to charges related to the “accident.”

The case was part of Operation Bang-Up, a state initiative targeting staged crashes in Passaic County.

According to Hoffman’s office: Deputy Attorney General Bradford Muller, Lt. Weldon Powell, Lt. Frederic Moore and Detectives Cortney Lawrence and Janessa Jones coordinated the investigation. Detectives Grace Rocca and Suzanna Lopez and analyst Bethany Schussler assisted in the investigation.

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