FBI Arrests 12 People Involved in Highly Organized Fraud Ring

October 31, 2000

The efforts of FBI agents and Los Angeles police officers have led to the arrest of 12 people involved in a highly organized fraud ring that staged auto accidents to steal millions of dollars from insurance companies.

The arrests were the result of a dragnet throughout Southern California, Sacramento and Nevada. Sam “Niko” Lahooti, the man suspected of being the head “capper,” or person who organized the potentially dangerous accidents and recruited bogus victims to file insurance claims, was arrested. The scam also involved two chiropractors, Hamid Manesh, 39, of Diamond Bar, and Mehrdad Ahrablou, 39, of Los Angeles, who would “treat” the purported victims and then file inflated medical bills. Both the capper and doctors were alleged to have received much of the money.

In all, 17 people were charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud through a network of attorneys, office administrators, medical clinics and recruits, known as “claimants.”

According to the 57-page complaint, some of those arrested and sought by the FBI helped find claimants and send them to doctors and lawyers who knowingly participated in the scam. Others played smaller roles, such as driving the cars or being passengers in them.

The dragnet was the culmination of a long-term initiative by the FBI dubbed “Operation Blown Engine,” part of a multi-agency initiative to rein in fraudulent claims that are estimated to cost billions of dollars a year in the U.S. Roughly one in five dollars in insurance payouts goes toward fraudulent and illegal claims.

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