Two Calif. attorneys have been convicted for their involvement in an auto fraud ring that collectively netted more than $450,000.
Leon Rubin Laufer, who worked in Beverly Hills, and Stephen Marshall Weiss from San Fernando Valley both pled no contest to charges in Los Angeles Superior Court on February 17, 2011. Laufer, 59, was convicted of one count of reckless disregard for accepting illegal referrals. Weiss, 63, pled to one count of insurance fraud. Both have been sentenced to three years of probation and 250 hours of community service, and must abide by all professional conduct requirements under the State Bar of California.
Under a negotiated settlement, the two unlawful lawyers have jointly paid more than $145,000 in restitution to nine insurance companies that were defrauded through false claims for staged auto accidents.
Of course, similar to much of the Los Angeles population, these two didn’t work without an entourage. In fact, the pair is believed to be part of a group of more than 300 participants in the fraud ring. Their roles in the crime were minor when compared to the stars of the fraud show, Alexander Igor Gutman and Laszlo Aldar Bango.
Gutman, 49, of Sherman Oaks allegedly worked with Bango to net millions of dollars by staging an estimated 2,600 “paper accidents” between 2002 and 2008. Gutman and Bango were arrested in May of 2008 for their direction of a large network of attorneys (allegedly including Laufer and Weiss), chiropractors, doctors, and body shops that worked together to process claims for phony accidents.
Authorities dubbed the year-long investigation “Operation Big Fish,” and big it was. It involved 16 agencies, and thousands of hours of work, and has scooped up a total of more than $540,000 in restitution, as well as a long list of criminals that played a part in the scheme.
Gutman pled guilty in February 2009 to 15 counts of insurance fraud, and Bango pleaded guilty to four counts of insurance fraud. Both men’s sentences are pending so for now, this Tinsel Town drama is a bit of a cliffhanger. Let’s just hope for the industry’s sake that it doesn’t have a sequel.