A scam that led to indictments of six people who are accused of staging auto accidents to obtain insurance money apparently started in Lawrence, a U.S. attorney's official said this morning.
Chris Watney, public affairs assistant for the U.S. attorney's office in Wichita, said this morning that prosecutors believe the first of five staged accidents in the alleged scheme occurred July 16, 1988, in Lawrence.
Watney said attorneys believe George W. Turley, 52, a former Olathe man, paid a woman $1,000 to ram her car into a van driven by James A. Gravatt, 28, formerly of Emporia. Gravatt and a passenger, Wiley Keith Abram, 48, Olathe, were hospitalized at Lawrence Memorial Hospital from July 17 to July 30, 1988, she said.
Turley, Gravatt and Abram were among six defendants named on a May 6 indictment containing counts of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Also accused of those charges are Turley's daughter, Ginger E. Tyler, 31, Olathe, Sandra K. Abram, 46, Olathe, and Kenneth Callahan, 45, Seymour, Mo.
In addition, all but Callahan were indicted for money laundering charges and failing to report taxable insurance income by making false statements on tax returns.
The indictment said the six defendants schemed to obtain insurance money and property fraudulently by obtaining numerous hospital indemnification policies under which insurance companies would pay them for each day they were hospitalized. The government said they allegedly staged car accidents, obtained lengthy hospitalizations and received insurance payments by mail.
On Wednesday, Watney said, a grand jury returned an indictment that added two money-laundering counts -- one each against Turley and Tyler.
Watney said the indictment did not contain more specifics about the location of the Lawrence accident. The indictment named Claudia Lane as the woman paid by Turley to hit the van but did not give further details about her. Lane is not a defendant.
The indictment states that accidents were also staged Sept. 2, 1989, at Joplin, Mo.; Sept. 21, 1989, at Kansas City, Mo.; Nov. 30, 1990, at Bonner Springs; and Sept. 30, 1991, at St. Charles, Mo. Turley and Wiley and Sandra Abram also conspired to stage an accident in August 1991 in Houston, the indictment stated.
The new count against Turley, the alleged organizer of the fraud scheme, accuses him of transferring a $60,000 check in interstate commerce that prosecutors said was derived from unlawful activity. The new count against his daughter involved a $16,000 check.
Turley was charged in the original indictment with 30 counts of mail fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, two counts of money laundering and four counts of making a false statement on a tax return. The initial indictment charges Tyler with four counts of money laundering, 10 counts of mail fraud and three counts of making a false statement on a tax return.