Thursday, 4:30 PM
Man gets two-year sentence in auto insurance scam that killed woman
By Globe Staff
A young man who staged a car accident in Lawrence that ended up killing one of his relatives – and setting off a crackdown on insurance fraud statewide -- was sentenced today in Essex Superior Court to two years in jail.
Jacinto Maldonado staged the accident in September 2003. But the plan went awry, and a distant relative, Altagracias Arias, 64, was killed. (Arias has been described in media reports as Maldonado’s grandmother, but family members said today outside the court that she was not.)
Anthony Arias, who was the elderly woman's grandson, asked Judge David Lowy to be lenient in sentencing, noting that Maldonado has three children.
"Other than this pleading guilty, he's never had any issues," said Arias.
Family members who attended the hearing said the family has suffered enough and a long sentence for Maldonado would only add to their suffering.
"He'll continue to feel grief about what happened. And whatever the sentence, he's going to continue to feel responsibility," said Hank Brennan, Maldonado’s attorney.
Prosecutor William J. Melkonian, who had sought a five- to seven-year sentence, emphasized that "a human being died in this case," arguing that the Maldonado had behaved recklessly.
The case sparked a major investigation into auto insurance scams in Lawrence and across Massachusetts.
An insurance fraud task force was formed in Lawrence of police, prosecutors, and insurance investigators.
The probe yielded scores of arrests and uncovered a large network of participants, including lawyers, chiropractors, insurance agents, "runners" who sold seats in cars for fake accidents, and participants in fake accidents.
Police say that Maldonado was driving a "bullet car" that was supposed to hit another car, but the car instead hit a telephone pole, killing Arias.
Maldonado fled the country but was eventually arrested in the Dominican Republic in January 2006.