Authorities Re-arrest Alleged Runner in New England Insurance Fraud Cases
LAWRENCE, MA — A five-year crackdown by Lawrence's auto insurance fraud task force has resulted in charges filed against 341 people, including alleged runner Leo Lopez.
Lopez, already facing three separate grand jury indictments, was recently arrested again in connection with a case that led to seven other people being charged with auto insurance fraud, the Eagle Tribune newspaper reported.
"Most of the accidents he orchestrated were all on paper," Lawrence Police Detectives Sgt. Michael Simard told the newspaper.
Lopez is due to be retried later this month on a case being prosecuted by the state attorney general's office after a Superior Court jury couldn't reach a verdict, the Eagle Tribune reported.
"Leo Lopez is the most notorious, the most brazen and the most prolific of the runners we've investigated," Simard said. Investigators have identified him as "a major player" who got paid by area lawyers and chiropractors to recruit victims of fake crashes.
Investigators said that Lopez, a former van driver and chiropractic assistant for Kaplan Chiropractic Corp. in North Andover, is considered the mastermind of at least a dozen accidents now being probed by the task force.
"His name surfaces quite a bit in our investigations of a number of accidents," Lawrence Police Chief John Romero told the newspaper. Romero assembled the task force in the fall of 2003 after a 65-year Lawrence great-grandmother died in a staged car crash that investigators said she helped plan.
"It appears that he's made a career of doing this," Romero said of Lopez. "This guy was a big-time runner. Runners in general made large amounts of money on the backs of the residents of Lawrence by choreographing these frauds."
The latest case against Lopez involves a two-car "paper" crash in Plaistow, N.H., on July 15, 2002, that led to seven people receiving treatment for phony injuries they claimed.
Criminal charges stem from a probe launched by the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts, which has several investigators working with Lawrence police detectives on the task force.