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West Hempstead man gets 10 years in intentional car crash insurance scheme

A Long Island man who masterminded intentional car crashes to get insurance money was sentenced in federal court Thursday to 10 years in prison in a scheme that lasted five years, federal authorities said.

Maxo Jean, 53, of West Hempstead, must also forfeit nearly $600,000 and pay restitution to his victims, officials said.

A jury in January had convicted him of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and health-care fraud after he arranged more than 30 car crashes against innocent drivers, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan.

His attorney, Neil Checkman of Manhattan, who took over the case after the trial, said he filed an appeal on the case immediately after the sentence, which he called "severe." The outcome of the appeal is crucial to his client in large part because Jean, a permanent resident from Haiti, will likely be deported to his native country, Checkman said.

Jean, who had run a car service, maintains he is not guilty, the attorney said: "He believes he was taken advantage of by the drivers who used to work for him."

But prosecutors said Jean and his accomplices filed $1.5 million in no-fault and pain and suffering claims from 2006 to 2011, collecting nearly $600,000 from 10 insurance companies to "line their pockets," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

"His scheme quite literally added insult to injury for the innocent drivers and the insurance companies he defrauded," Bharara said in a news release.

Prosecutors said Jean found the cars, recruited drivers and passengers, and paid them to slam into other vehicles. He took the fake victims to "corrupt" medical clinics, where he encouraged them to list fake ailments, such as back and shoulder injuries, that were likely to result in the biggest payouts, authorities said.

He also directed one accomplice to submit to unnecessary treatment, including surgery, but that person refused, officials said. One of the medical clinics also pressured an accomplice to undergo an unnecessary surgery, but she refused also, prosecutors said.

Jean took $150,000 in insurance company payouts and in kickbacks from the corrupt medical clinics, prosecutors said.

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