HAMMOND | A Michigan City woman admits to her role in a scheme to stage phony car accidents in the region in order to collect insurance payouts, court records filed Friday show.
Shanise Kelley, 30, filed the amended plea agreement in U.S. District Court, Hammond, Friday, pledging to cooperate with prosecutors in other cases and admitting to one felony count of mail fraud.
In her plea agreement, which still needs to be accepted by a judge at a future date, Kelley admits that she and others staged car accidents and filed false insurance claims between 2006 and 2009 in Northwest Indiana and Illinois.
Kelley's court filings detail one December 2006 case in which she admits she and others staged an accident in LaPorte County. She claimed to have been driving a 1992 BMW that collided with a Chrysler LHS and a Ford Crown Victoria.
"However, the accident never occurred," Kelley states in the court filings. "I, along with others, staged the accident to appear as if the Chrysler struck the Crown Victoria, which caused the Crown Victoria to strike the BMW."
A claim for the phony accident was filed with State Farm Insurance, and an undisclosed amount of money in claims was issued by check, Kelley's plea agreement states.
Court records do not indicate how much money was involved in the alleged scheme, and a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors said that information was not available Friday. Kelley's defense attorney, Michael Bosch, was out of the country and unable to be reached, an employee of his office said.
Kelley faces up to 20 years in prison on the charge but is asking for leniency because of her cooperation with federal authorities.
Other similar cases have made their way through Hammond federal court in recent years.
In 2012, Daphyne Thomas, of Markham, and Chandra Thomas, of Chicago, were each given federal sentences for their roles in staging a phony car accident in Calumet City to collect insurance, court records show.
In 2007, Daphyne Thomas, then in her 30s and pregnant, staged the accident, went to the hospital for "injuries" and then pocketed insurance money, federal authorities allege. She was sentenced to four months in federal prison. Chandra Thomas was sentenced to three years on probation for her role in the scheme.
And in 2011, Shinita Mosley, of Hammond, pleaded guilty to staging car accidents to collect insurance and lying on her college financial aid forms. Mosley was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, according to court records.