SPOKANE, Wash. — A 52-year-old Kennewick man pleaded guilty to numerous fraud and conspiracy-related charges, among others, for his involvement in a staged car accident scheme and his subsequent attempts to cover it up. Ali Abed Yaser admitted to two counts of mail fraud, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, making false statements to the FBI, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
His sentencing is scheduled for 1 p.m. on January 16, 2023 in Richland, where he faces a maximum possible sentence of 95 years in prison, five years of court supervision and $250,000 in restitution.
The FBI began investigating multiple people in February 2019 that were suspected to be involved in a scheme with staged car accidents, followed by fraudulent claims to insurance companies, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. In its investigation, the FBI recorded the suspected peoples’ conversations using a confidential human source (CHS), or someone who recorded them in secret.
A federal jury authorized further investigation into Yaser and the co-defendants in the scheme, according to the release.
The FBI found out about a car crash that Yaser staged in Benton County on May 28, 2019, according to court documents. Another person driving a Hyundai Sonata on County Route 12 purposely drove into Yaser’s Lexus IS, a scheme that led to around a $126,990 payout. Yaser claimed he was involved in an accident that led to bodily injury and wage loss, even though he wasn’t in the car at the time of the crash.
The next May, the FBI served search warrants on homes in Washington and California in search of evidence. Not long after, Yaser held a meeting at his home, suspecting someone was giving information to the FBI, according to court documents. At this meeting, he told the FBI’s CHS to be careful of whoever was giving information to the FBI.
A few months later, in August 2020, Yaser had suspected someone else of being the FBI’s source. That person went to visit the actual CHS, and Yaser found out, according to the DOJ. He was mad that the FBI’s actual source hadn’t told him about the visit, because he would have wanted to come over and kill the person he suspected.
Yaser then told the CHS to call the person he suspected and invite him back over. Yaser asked the CHS to record a conversation between the two of them, swearing it wasn’t for the government. According to the DOJ, Yaser met with the CHS a few days later to plan a false complaint against the FBI agent on the case and the man Yaser suspected of being an informant. He then tried to get others in on the plan.
Yaser was interviewed by the FBI in September 2020; to which he falsely accused the case agent and the person he suspected as an FBI informant of accepting a $20,000 bribe.
“Staging an automobile accident to enrich yourself negatively impacts the entire community by raising insurance rates for law-abiding drivers,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref. “Worse still, after learning he was under investigation for staging an automobile accident and defrauding insurance companies, Mr. Yaser repeatedly chose to obstruct official proceedings and conceal his violations of federal law by lying to investigators, falsely accusing an FBI agent of soliciting a $20,000 bribe, threatening a potential witness, and tampering with evidence. Yaser’s corrupt conduct threatened the integrity of the proceedings and was designed to prevent his criminal activities from ever being uncovered.”