Linden man charged with staging car accidents, witness tampering

LINDEN — Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor announced Thursday, Dec. 11, that the nephew of the admitted mastermind of several staged car accidents in Northern New Jersey was arrested and indicted for running his own fake accident scheme and for tampering with witnesses he believed were planning to implicate him in a major insurance fraud investigation conducted by the state.

Miguel Saldivar-Liberato, 28, of Linden, has been charged in two indictments for organizing a staged accident in 2012 and for tampering with witnesses in that alleged crime and in separate cases that are already before the court. Saldivar-Liberato has been charged by the grand jury with one count of second-degree witness tampering, second-degree conspiracy, second-degree insurance fraud, third-degree theft by deception, third-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution, two counts of third-degree witness tampering, and one count of third-degree attempted witness tampering. The charges were contained in indictments secured by OIFP on Dec. 4 and 9.

Saldivar-Liberato is alleged to have tampered with an unindicted co-conspirator from the 2012 case and with two defendants from cases from “Operation Bang-Up,” an investigation by OIFP that targeted staged-car accidents in Passaic County from 2009 to 2013. In one instance, it is alleged that he offered to pay for a defendant’s legal fees in exchange for his name not being mentioned in connection with the alleged crime.

“Saldivar-Liberato is an alleged master scammer and has recruited several ‘actors’ to go along with these schemes that not only defraud insurers but threaten the public’s safety,” Hoffman said. “When it became clear that we were aggressively investigating these scams, he allegedly tried to influence those actors to either take the fall themselves or point the finger at others who had nothing to do with the crimes.”

“Insurance fraud exists in many forms, but staged accidents are of particular concern because the fraudulent claims they create result in multiple sectors being affected,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi. “In these cases, many times doctors are treating patients that do not need care and insurers are fixing cars that should have never been damaged. The bottom line here is that all insurance premium payers are victims of this fraud.”

The state alleges that Saldivar-Liberato and his uncle, Oliveras Liberato-Cohen, directed the uncle’s co-defendants to fabricate a story that would not implicate Saldivar-Liberato in the state’s investigation. Liberato-Cohen, 46, of Passaic, admitted last month that he was the lead organizer of two staged automobile accidents that occurred in 2010 and were the focus of the “Operation Bang Up” investigation. The state has recommended he serve five years in state prison and that he and his co-conspirators pay restitution in the amount of $179,210. He was not charged with witness tampering for his alleged role with Saldivar-Liberato. Four others were arrested in connection with the 2012 staged accident including: Hairo Matias, 21, of Paterson; Daniela Garcia, 28, of Passaic; and Ramon Mosquea, 25, of Paterson; and Anthony DeCastro, 22, of Paterson. These four defendants were charged with second-degree conspiracy, second-degree insurance fraud and third-degree theft by deception.

The indictment alleges that on or about January 9, 2012, Saldivar-Liberato organized a staged automobile accident that took place in Paterson. Saldivar-Liberato allegedly recruited the participants and provided directions regarding how to stage the accident. Garcia is alleged to have driven an unindicted co-conspirator in a Grey 2005 Nissan Altima, while Matias, Mosquea, and DeCastro were passengers in a 1993 tan Toyota Corolla driven by a second unindicted co-conspirator. That vehicle allegedly purposely hit Garcia’s, as per the plan conceived by Saldivar-Liberato, and the police were called. The police were told that the accident was real when, in fact, OIFP believes the accident was fake. According to the indictment, Saldivar-Liberato directed the four other defendants to complain of fake injuries and to obtain treatment at certain designated medical providers. OIFP alleges that the fraudulent claims made by the defendant and the two unindicted co-conspirators resulted in the insurers paying out to the defendants and the unindicted co-conspirators a total of $55,468.

The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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