Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Lawyers Plead Not Guilty to Auto Insurance Fraud Charges
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Two local attorneys who were arrested along with nearly two dozen individuals accused of collectively netting more than $450,000 through their participation in a large-scale auto insurance fraud ring were arraigned yesterday and entered pleas of not guilty in case No. BA363494.
Los Angeles attorney Stephen Marshall Weiss, 62, was charged with 32 counts of grand theft of personal property, insurance fraud and filing false and fraudulent claims, while Glendale attorney John Akopian, 37, was charged with 38 counts.
Akopian additionally faces charges of money laundering, receiving stolen property and possession of an assault weapon. He was arrested Sunday and Weiss was arrested Friday, a spokesperson for prosecutors said.
Both men are due back on Jan. 6 for a hearing.
Beverly Hills attorney Leon Rubin Laufer, 57, is charged with 50 counts and Corona attorney Edward Leonid Katsnelson, 50, is facing 32 counts, the spokesperson added. The two men have not yet been arrested.
The attorneys and four local chiropractors are accused of defrauding 15 insurance companies by allegedly filing false claims for staged accidents. The case, which involves 28 defendants, was filed on Oct. 22. Prosecutors allege that the defendants are part of a larger conspiracy involving more than 300 suspects.
District Attorney investigators yesterday arrested chiropractors Mark A. Stolyar, 35; Babak Naghi, 40; Dmitriy Sklyut, 33; and Christopher Manuel Cleveland, 54.
The defendants are believed to be associates of Alexander Igor Gutman, 48, of Sherman Oaks, and Laszlo Aldar Bango, 37, of Van Nuys, who last year were charged in case No. BA340194, officials said.
Gutman is believed to have netted millions of dollars by staging some 2,600 “paper accidents.” Bango was purportedly a co-conspirator.
In February Gutman pleaded guilty to 15 counts of insurance fraud and Bango pleaded guilty to four counts of insurance fraud. Both men admitted aggravated white-collar crime enhancements. The two are expected to be sentenced at a future date
District Attorney Steve Cooley said in a prepared statement that “[t]hese sorts of crimes, particularly when orchestrated by attorneys and medical practitioners, undermine the very fabric of our insurance systems.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company