NEW ROCHELLE, New York (WABC) -- Nine people and five businesses were charged with insurance fraud after a nearly two-year investigation.
Police say Operation Sledgehammer led to the arrests in connection to an auto insurance fraud ring known as Jawahir Enterprise that had been operating in lower Westchester and the Bronx.
Authorities say the defendants allegedly enhanced damage to vehicles or intentionally damaged vehicles that weren't previously damaged and falsified insurance claims.
In some cases, authorities say the defendants strategically enhanced vehicle damage so the body shop could increase the billed repair cost while keeping the actual cost of repair to a minimum. The insurer would be charged the higher amount.
Another scheme involved staging accidents between two or more vehicles, at least one of which was owned by a person who had insurance.
An additional scheme involved members of the enterprise strategically striking insured vehicles with heavy objects such as sledgehammers.
At times, officials say, members of the Jawahir Enterprise created no new damage to their vehicles, but instead submitted claims to multiple insurance companies under different policies in an attempt to receive money
"Auto insurance theft affects every one of us. Insurance fraud is not a victimless crimem," said Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. "When false claims are made and money is stolen from insurance companies, it forces all of our insurance rates to increase and costs each of us hard-earned money."
Nine suspects were charged with enterprise corruption and other charges including grand larceny, money laundering and insurance fraud.
Four of the defendants -- Joseph S. Cermele, Rangee Jawahir, Georgette S. Sloley, and Wayne M. Scott -- were arrested Dec. 1 and arraigned in New Rochelle City Court.
The remaining individuals -- Ronnie Lee-Andros Jawahir, Allan Ramdeo Ramiah, Ronald Jawahir, Danesh Singh, and Andrew Arjune -- were arrested Tuesday and also arraigned in New Rochelle City Court.
All individuals were released without bail and will return to court on different dates throughout December and January.
Three other people were arrested and charged on separate complaints with related crimes: Latoya Shonta Turner, Reiluis Medina and Andrea Thompson.
They face charges of grand larceny and insurance fraud.
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