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8 face charges in auto-crash fraud scheme

A Nassau County-centered ring ripped off insurance companies for more than $1 million over two years by renting small trucks, staging phony accidents and submitting fraudulent injury claims, authorities said.

Federal agents fanned out early Wednesday in Nassau and New York City to break up the ring.

Five of the eight known suspects were arraigned Wednesday night in federal court in Central Islip. A sixth will make his first appearance Thursday.

Another suspect was arrested in Virginia and is expected to be brought to Long Island next week, and one man is still being sought, according to authorities.

All face fraud and conspiracy charges, accused of filing false insurance claims between March 2009 and July 2011, according to the indictment filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kelly.

The ring submitted claims seeking more than $2 million and collected about half that amount, authorities said.

The defendants rented the trucks in Nassau and Brooklyn, then drove to various locations in the metropolitan area, where they "either intentionally struck or were intentionally struck by another vehicle driven by a co-conspirator that resulted in staged accidents," the indictment states.

The purported accidents were really little more than "mere taps," said a source familiar with the investigation.

Afterward, members of the ring lied to police and sought treatment for nonexistent injuries, according to the indictment.

"These defendants played bumper cars with the lives of unsuspecting New Yorkers, all to enrich themselves," said Eastern District U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, citing the risk of injury to unsuspecting drivers and pedestrians at the sites of the staged crashes.

The leaders of the ring were identified by authorities as Roshon Cooke, 35, of Hempstead, and Shawn McFadden, 31, of Uniondale. Both pleaded not guilty during their arraignment before Magistrate Kathleen Tomlinson in U.S. District Court. Cooke was released on $75,000 bail; McFadden on $100,000 bail.

The other suspects were identified as Daniel Osborne, 28, of Uniondale; Daniel Thompson, 32, of Norfolk, Va.; Allah Brown, 27, of Roosevelt; Byron Dudley, 28, of Baldwin; Shaquana Basnight, 30, of Hempstead; and Clifford Hawkins, 25, of Baldwin.

If convicted, each faces up to 20 years in prison.

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