HAMMOND | Nine people were indicted Thursday on charges of staging car crashes in Northwest Indiana and Illinois to profit from insurance payouts.
The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Hammond, charges the following individuals with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud: Dwayne Ashford, 52, Robert Lemon, 48, Andy Mitchell, 54, and Melissa Yates, all of Michigan City; Tomika Yates, 49, and Theodus Lanfair, 32, both of Grand Prairie, Texas; Archie Hamilton, 48, and Toni Alexander, 42, both of Calumet City; and Robert Butler, 21, of Valparaiso.
The defendants planned and staged car crashes among themselves and others and reported them to local police departments, who prepared reports based on the information the defendants provided, the indictment states. The defendants also fraudulently reported the crashes to respective insurance companies.
The fraud occurred between December 2005 and July 2009, the indictment states.
The defendants either bought vehicles for the purpose of staging a crash, used their own vehicles or recruited others to use their vehicles in the scheme, according to the indictment.
Ashford and Lemon used their business in Michigan City to execute purchases for vehicles that later were used in staged crashes or those that never occurred, the indictment says.