‘Highly orchestrated’ car crash insurance fraud ends badly for Tri-Cities man
A Kennewick man was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in federal prison for insurance fraud conspiracy for a staged car crash and then conspiring to obstruct an FBI investigation.
Ali Abed Yaser falsely accused a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and another person of soliciting a bribe in an attempt to stop the investigation of the insurance fraud scheme.
U.S. Judge Mary K. Dimke also ordered Yaser, 52, on Thursday to pay about $127,000 in restitution and a judgment of nearly $20,000. He faces three years probation after being released from prison.
She said that Yaser engaged in a “concerted and dedicated effort to undermine the credibility” of the FBI.
His actions “undermined the reputation of that agency and the community’s ability to have trust and faith in the justice system as a whole,” she said.
Yaser’s crimes were “serious, complex and highly orchestrated,” according to U.S. District Court documents. “Insurance fraud is a serious crime that affects society in the form of higher insurance premium.”
He pleaded guilty, as one of 23 defendants in the fraud case, to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud; conspiracy to commit health care fraud; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; making false statements within jurisdiction of the executive branch; and two counts of mail fraud.
Attorneys with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Washington had asked for a sentence of four years and three months, and Yaser had asked for a sentence of two years and 11 months.
Federal investigators say in May 2019 Yaser no longer wanted to make the monthly car payments on his 2014 Lexus IS so he staged a car accident.
His wife, grown son and two minor daughters and at least two other co-defendants, Ameer R. Mohammed and Seiffedine Al-Kinani, also were involved, according to court documents.
Mohammed intentionally crashed a 2009 Hyundai Sonata into the Lexus on a rural road near the Tri-Cities, after Yaser made sure none of his family members were still in the Lexus, according to court documents.
Fraudulent insurance claims
Yaser then told his family members to seek medical care for non-existent injuries and retained a law firm to file fraudulent claims on behalf of his son and daughters.
He told insurance companies that his wife, son and daughters had suffered neck, shoulder and left leg injuries that required medical treatment and physical therapies.
He also claimed in an insurance company interview that he took the worst of the impact.
He said he had had to cancel several business orders at the roofing company he owns because of his injuries and had to use a cane to walk.
Two insurance companies paid out nearly $127,000 related to the staged crash.
Yaser received about $34,500, which included bodily injury settlements and collision coverage. His two daughters each received $5,000.
His Lexus was taken to salvage, and he purchased it back and sold it for $5,000.
Yaser thought he was in the clear until a year after the staged crash, when the FBI searched his home along with other residences in Washington state and California, according to court documents
“When faced with the discovery of his fraud scheme, Mr. Yaser doubled down,” said Richard Collodi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office.
FBI agent falsely accused
He suspected one of the people who had helped him with the car crash insurance fraud was working as an FBI informant so he falsely accused that person and an FBI agent of asking him for $20,000 to make the case go away.
He recruited another person, who was actually working with the FBI as a confidential informant, to secretly record meetings with the suspected informant so Yaser could later tamper with the recordings.
He also solicited the person he did not know was working as a confidential informant to lure the suspected informant to a garage and then turn off the security system so Yaser could “finish him off,” according to a court document.
Yaser is an Iraqi refugee who arrived in the United States to make his home in Kennewick about 13 years ago and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2016.
He has no prior criminal convictions but did have a fourth-degree domestic violence gross misdemeanor that was dismissed after he completed a two year continuance.
“Mr. Yaser was a respected member of Kennewick’s Iraqi community,” said his attorney, Craig Webster, in a court document. “He often opened his house to host religious and community gatherings.”
Several members of the Iraqi community sent the judge letters of support for Yaser.
Webster also said that Yaser has been worried about the well-being of his family during the 14 months he has been held in the Benton County jail.
“The position in which he has placed them based on his poor decisions weigh on him heavily,” Webster said.
But federal attorneys wrote in a court document that Yaser’s “criminal conduct demonstrates his lack of respect for the law, the police, medical personnel and the insurance business.”
“It seems he believes that when caught, it is acceptable to lie to law enforcement, meet with others to align stories and even tamper with potential evidence and witnesses,” they said.
U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref said after the hearing that “efforts to hinder federal criminal proceedings will not be tolerated.”
She also said that staged accidents distract police from responding to legitimate distress calls.
The case was prosecuted by George J.C. Jacobs, III, assistant U.S. attorney.