Attorney General announces indictment in insurance-fraud ring that staged accidents, auto thefts and faked property damage

DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today that his office has shut down an insurance-fraud ring that defrauded insurance companies using staged automobile accidents and other fraudulent claims involving automobiles.

According to the 24-count indictment, Mikel Troy Mewbourn (DOB: 3/10/1970), Melissa Ann Gillispie (DOB: 1/23/1977), Walter Bruce Smith (DOB: 3/15/1960), James Albert Esquibel (DOB: 5/30/1959), John Levi Smith (DOB: 12/23/1983) and Jesse Wayne Sellers (DOB: 10/11/1984) are suspected of claiming more than $277,000 in insurance payments associated with three staged accidents, two staged auto thefts, two incidences of fake hail damage and one instance of staged property damage at a house under construction between September 2007 and January 2011.

“We secured this indictment through the cooperation of criminal justice agencies across the state. This case is a testament to the excellent work we and partners can accomplish together,” Suthers said. “Although this insurance-fraud ring may have been limited to the Front Range, their crimes affected consumers across the state. Simply put: Insurance fraud drives up rates for all Coloradans.”

Mewbourn, Gillespie and Walter Smith each are charged with violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, a class-two felony. Each could face up to 24 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million if convicted on this count of the indictment. 

The Office of the Attorney General’s work on this case was funded in part through the Colorado Automobile Theft Prevention Authority, which is funded through a grant the state secured in April 2010. The grant-funded initiative consists of a full-time prosecutor and investigator who assist local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys in the investigation of complex crime related to automobile theft through use of the Statewide Grand Jury. The initiative also provides field-specific training to law enforcement agencies across the state.

The Office of the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Unit assisted in the investigation of this case. The Aurora Police Department, the Eastern Metro Auto Theft Team and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office also assisted in the Office of the Attorney General’s investigation.

Prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General will present the case against Mewbourn and his codefendants in Arapahoe County District Court.

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