South Carolina Authorities Charge 18 People in Sumter Insurance Fraud Ring | News

COLUMBIA — State authorities say they have arrested more than a dozen people involved in an insurance fraud ring based in the Sumter area.

So far, seventeen people have been arrested on various charges of insurance fraud after allegedly staging car accidents to file false property damage and personal injury claims.

Tyburious Marquis Heyward, the latest defendant, was still wanted by authorities on April 6 over allegations that he masterminded the scheme, said Renée Wunderlich, a spokeswoman for the state’s Law Enforcement Division. Heyward planned some of the staged accidents while he was in state prison, she said.

The other 17 defendants have been arrested, Wunderlich said, and all but one are incarcerated at the Sumter Lee Regional Detention Center.

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Arrest warrant affidavits allege the conspirators were involved in at least four traffic accidents in Sumter between August 2020 and October 2021.

A man allegedly conspired with his two cousins ​​to crash a U-Haul truck into a 2005 Ford Mustang in December 2020 on US Highway 15. The defendants cheated insurance companies out of nearly $20,000 in that accident, according to statements. sworn.

Several defendants claimed to be involved in an accident in October involving two Nissans, later filing claims for thousands of dollars in lost wages due to alleged injuries, according to affidavits.

In all, authorities say the conspirators made more than $93,000 from the staged crashes.

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Authorities say Heyward orchestrated the complex fraud schemes even while he was still serving a 6 1/2-year sentence in state prison.

Heyward allegedly recruited the other defendants into the scheme behind bars, sometimes posing as other defendants while on the phone with insurance companies, according to affidavits.

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One defendant told investigators that Heyward contacted him from prison in March 2021 to collect a $10,000 insurance check. The defendant said he was paid $2,500 to do so, according to affidavits.

Chrysti Shain, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said Heyward was granted supervised release from prison on April 1, 2021.

He was serving his sentence at the Ridgeland Correctional Institution prior to his release, according to prison records.

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In April 2020, a year before he was released, Heyward was disciplined for possessing or attempting to possess a cell phone, as well as soliciting a jail employee, records show.

Sumter County court records show this is not the first time Heyward has been accused of masterminding an insurance fraud scheme.

In 2017, Heyward conspired with several others to stage four car accidents in Sumter County. The scheme netted the co-conspirators nearly $150,000 in bogus insurance claims, according to arrest warrant affidavits.

Heyward pleaded guilty in April 2019 to four counts of insurance fraud in the case and was sentenced to five years in prison, according to court records.

Shain said Heyward was also serving an 18-month sentence for failing to stop for an officer.

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SLED investigated the case with the South Carolina Department of Insurance. The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office will prosecute the defendants.

SLED chief Mark Keel said in a statement that his agency was committed to stamping out insurance fraud.

“Victims of staged accidents and our citizens who pay the resulting higher insurance premiums are better served through this collaboration and the state’s increased investment in fighting insurance fraud,” the chief said.

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Department of Insurance spokeswoman Katie Greer said additional claims involving the defendants are still being investigated.

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Tully Lehman, a spokeswoman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said staged car accidents are “big business.”

Scammers often stage accidents in urban areas, where there are more vehicles and wealthier communities, where drivers are perceived to have better insurance companies, Lehman said.

Innocent drivers are sometimes unknowingly tied up in staged accidents, Lehman said, but organized insurance fraud is also not uncommon. A staged crash may involve multiple drivers, “convenient” witnesses, and bystanders willing to recommend a body shop, doctor, or attorney.

“Sometimes they all work together,” Lehman said.

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The arrested defendants are Taqwan Omar Sharif Abrams, 19; Tyler Anderson, 24; Davarius Teshaun Brown, 22; General Ar’Terrani Shyni, 24; Aminah Samira Hart, 28; Michael Gerald Leneau, 34; Shali Daquan Leneau, 30; Alexis M. Mosley, 21; Brad Le’Var Nelson, 20; Marquis Derriko Pressley, 22; Calvin Sean Porcher, 31; Deljuan Talik Shaw, 19; Oshzhane Keyonna Simon, 25; Marchioness Deonta Arnez Slater, 23; Shamaria Tyanna Vanburen, 21; the shy Miek Washington, 27; and Shyrem Shadell Williams, 28.