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Ringleader of insurance scam that staged car crashes going to prison, SC prosecutor says

Tyburious Heyward pleaded guilty to three felony charges, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office said.
Tyburious Heyward pleaded guilty to three felony charges, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office said. SUMTER COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

The man called the ringleader of an insurance scam that involved staged car crashes, impersonating victims and phony medical bills is going to prison, the South Carolina attorney general said Wednesday.

For three months, Tyburious Heyward led a group that committed insurance fraud in Sumter County, S.C., Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a news release.

The 21-year-old Sumter resident was the person pulling the strings in the ring, according to Wilson’s news release.

From December 2016 to February 2017, Heyward told the group to stage car wrecks, with its members in each of the vehicles, according to the news release.

Following the collisions, group members were instructed by Heyward to go to a Florence-area hospital for treatment, or to “give him their personal information so he could impersonate them,” the news release said.

The next step of the scheme was to use the costly medical bills and file claims with insurance companies GEICO and State Farm, according to the news release.

When the insurance settlements were ready to be paid out, the person doing the driving was Heyward, who transported “co-conspirators” to pick up their checks, the attorney general said in the news release.

For all of his planning, Wilson said Heyward made a mistake. One of his instructions to group members was to include “his phone number and his grandmother’s address on all paperwork” they filled out during hospital visits, according to the news release.

The insurance companies began to take note of the repeated contact information on all the reported crashes that occurred in similar locations and involving Sumter residents who were all treated at the same hospital, Wilson said in the news release.

An investigation was started and turned up surveillance footage of Heyward impersonating other members of the group, and a closer look at medical bills showed they had been altered, according to the news release.

Armed with that information, and confessions from other members of the ring, Heyward eventually pleaded guilty to three counts of presenting a false claim for payment greater than $10,000, the news release said.

Heyward was given a five-year prison sentence but was credited with 270 days time served since he was already behind bars when the insurance fraud case went to court, Wilson said in the news release.

Wilson said Heyward had already been sentenced to 18 months in prison for a traffic violation.

In June 2017, Heyward refused to stop for a Sumter County sheriff’s deputy who tried to pull him over, The State reported. Heyward led a chase before a crash, in which his car went airborne before rolling over in the road, the Sheriff’s Office told the newspaper.

“We’ve already convicted the rest of this ring and we’re glad to get its leader sentenced to prison,” Wilson said in the news release. “This group staged accidents that could have put others in danger, and this kind of fraud causes insurance rates to go up for all of us.”

Be prepared when you hit the road. Here are some quick tips on what to do if you are in a car accident.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.