Sept. 30--A 29-year-old Miami woman on Monday was sentenced to six years in prison for operating a wide-ranging car insurance scam out of a chiropractic clinic she and her longtime boyfriend owned on Forest Hill Boulevard.
Maria Testa Baceiro is the ninth person to be sentenced as part of a federal investigation dubbed Operation Sledgehammer. It was named after the tool of choice for fraudsters who made millions in South Florida by staging accidents and then making bogus insurance claims.
Prosecutors said Testa collected $4.2 million from Febre's Medical Center on Forest Hill Boulevard and Universal Rehab Med Group in Miami. They were also involved in scams operated out of other clinics in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, said prosecutor Ann Marie Villafana. But prosecutors were unable to get the financial records from the other clinics so couldn't quantify the losses.
Testa pleaded guilty to roughly four dozen crimes, mainly money-laundering and fraud. Her boyfriend, Luis Ivan Hernandez, pleaded guilty to similar charges and is to be sentenced Nov. 4. They are among 40 arrested in connection with the scam. Some of the 92 indicted in June fled the country, mainly to Cuba, to escape prosecution.
Testa, who moved from Cuba to the U.S. as a teenager, apologized for her actions. She has agreed to testify against others, which would enable her to petition the court to have her sentence reduced. Her mother is moving from New York to raise Testa's and Hernandez's 3-year-old son while his parents are in prison, Testa's attorney said.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra allowed Testa to remain free until Dec. 2. He also ordered her to pay $4.2 million in restitution.
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