Three sentenced in Lawrence-area auto insurance scam

Published: 2011-05-20 06:33:50
Author: John M. Guilfoil | Boston Globe | May 18, 2011

Three men including a lawyer and a chiropractor were found guilty yesterday in connection with a Lawrence-area auto insurance scam.

Omar Castillo, 38, of Methuen, James C. Hyde, 59, of Boxford, and Michael H. Kaplan, 49, of Hampstead, N.H., were found guilty by an Essex County jury after a six-week trial on charges of motor vehicle insurance fraud, larceny over $250, and attempted larceny over $250, said Harry Pierre, a spokesman for state Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office.

The men were sentenced by Essex Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead to 2 ½ years in the county jail followed by five years of probation. Half of Castillo’s sentence was suspended for five years, Pierre said.

One of the prosecution’s main witnesses, Leo Lopez, had pleaded guilty in 2009 to the same charges and was sentenced to nine months in jail. However, he argued that his lawyer did not properly represent him and was awarded a new trial, Pierre said. He contacted Coakley’s office and agreed to testify against Castillo, Hyde, and Kaplan.

According to prosecutors, Lopez would recruit people for the scam, and he and Castillo would damage their cars in order for them to make false damage and bodily injury claims. The “victims’’ would be sent to Kaplan and other chiropractors for “treatment’’ and lawyers like Hyde billed or sought reimbursement from the insurance companies, prosecutors said.

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