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Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud Must Pay Back Money in Car-Insurance Scam

Apr 2, 2007

By Lisa Redmond, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Apr. 3--CAMBRIDGE -- A Revere man involved in a scheme to defraud insurance companies out of thousands of dollars in one of the Lowell's largest auto-insurance fraud rings in the city's history, must pay restitution and perform community service.

In Middlesex Superior Court, Sokha Ngoun, 30, of Revere, pleaded guilty to his part in an insurance-fraud scheme. Judge Wendie Gershengorn sentenced Ngoun to a suspended two-year jail sentence with $1,300 in restitution and 100 hours of community service.

Prosecutors allege that on three separate dates -- April 21, 2004 in Lowell, May 21, 2004 in Tyngsboro, and May 24, 2004 in Bedford -- Eric Bonnette was involved in staging fake accidents to file false insurance claims. The total paid out in false claims was about $116,000.

Bonnette allegedly worked for two insurance-fraud "runners" -- Mercy Encarncion, 28, and Damaris "Poochy" Matos, 38, both of Worcester -- who recruited three Worcester residents to loan their cars and participate in the staged accidents.

During each

of these crashes, Bonnette allegedly drove the borrowed car and met with Encarncion and Matos in the parking of a McDonald's on Plain Street in Lowell.

While in the parking lot, Bonnette was allegedly given instructions by Encarncion and Matos as to which vehicle to hit. Authorities allege Bonnette then followed the other car and collided with it as part of a staged accident.

The three people in the car that Bonnette struck filed false motor-vehicle insurance claims, telling the insurance companies they were injured. In two of the accidents, the insurance companies relied on Bonnette's statements that the accidents were legitimate.

Ngoun was involved in the April 21, 2004 staged accident in which a Volvo, with Ngoun as a passenger, was deliberated struck by a Nissan Maxima. Following the accident, all passengers in the Volvo filed claims with insurance companies for medical expenses, and pain and suffering they claimed were related to the crash.

More than $25,000 was paid out in false claims allegedly made by Joseph Hamilton, 28, of Lowell, the Volvo's driver, and passengers Joseph LaMarche and Ngoun and a 16-year-old male.

With the third staged accident, the insurance companies became suspicious and denied the claims.

Nearly two years ago, the Governor's Auto Theft Strike Force, Lowell police and an insurance company received a tip about some of the alleged accidents. This triggered an investigation by the Lowell auto fraud task force, which uncovered the alleged fraud.

"This is clearly an example of the kind of thing we were looking at when we started the task force," said Lowell Police Capt. Robert DeMoura. "We are happy with the results. There are still a number of cases we are working on and if anyone has any information on this type of activity, we would urge them to call us."

In addition to Bonnette, Encarncion and Matos, seven were charged with insurance fraud in this case: Soeun Oum, 40, of Lowell; Sam Ma, 71, of Lowell; Jeffrey Hamilton, 17, of Lowell; Joseph Hamilton, 21, of Lowell; Kelly Drinosky, 22, of Lowell; Tho Chhim, 37, of Lowell.

Drinosky and Lamarche have also pleaded guilty to insurance fraud. Drinosky was sentenced to 15 months in jail followed by two years probation with the condition of drug treatment. LaMarche was sentenced to two years in jail followed by two years probation.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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