The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on October 31, 1992 · Page 149
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 149

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Los Angeles, California
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Saturday, October 31, 1992
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Page 149
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I tOS ANCiELES TIMES R SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1992 A 1-3 Lawyer Held as Planner Investigation: Gary P. Miller is among 26 people newly charged with setting up staged accidents, including a truck wreck in which a man died. By AMY PYLE and BOB POOL I IUCS STAFF WRITERS LOS ANGELES An attorney considered the mastermind of an alleged insurance fraud ring suspected of setting up at least four wrecks with large trucks on the Golden State Freeway was arrested at his Encino home early Friday and charged with murder. The arrest of Gary P. Miller, 44, came four months after Jose Luis Lopez Perez, 29, a participant in one of the crashes, was killed when a car -carrier overturned near Sun Valley and crushed the back seat of the car in which he was riding. The ring was one of several such operations that investigators blame for hundreds of setup wrecks with bjg trucks during the past year. T)sp alleged scams relied on organizers who recruited recent immig-iants to ride in cars that swerved in gUIlt of tractor-trailer trucks and popped, causing rear-end collisions. Miller, whose law office is on Wilshire Boulevard near Beverly Hills, was one of 26 additional people allegedly associated with the ring who were indicted by the grand jury this week, Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner announced Friday. Of the 26, only Miller and alleged wreck recruiter Filemon Santiago, 23, have been charged with mur-ijer. The remainder have been Charged with counts of insurance fraud and conspiracy. The case will be joined in Superi -4r Court with that of the driver in he fatal June 17 wreck 20-year-old Jorge Sanchez and the two Surviving passengers, all of whom jvere charged with murder. The MILITARY: Space Program Continued from A12 Srnment and industry work on Air 'orce programs. s Other experts said the total space Sffort, including the secret Nation -$1 Reconnaissance Office that Bianages procurement of spy satel-ites, could involve 200,000 work-frs, if all the Star Wars and missile $unch programs are included. The office also manages the Srocurement of electronic eaves-ropping satellites, such as the piree orbiting Magnum spacecraft, sed to gather foreign telephone fonversations and foreign trans -jiissions of military radar. It also Bas an unknown number of relay atellites to help transfer data to round stations in the United tes. rhe military now relies heavily on satellites for voice and data tommunications. There are six Navy Fleetsatcoms, three Navy IJejtsats, three NATO II communications satellites and five Air Force ftSCS satellites. The Air Force will soon have 24 (Qfibal positioning satellites in orbit to provide instant worldwide navigation services. It also operates two meteorological satellites. And an. estimated three Defense Support Program satellites monitor the gfroe to provide early warning of ballistic missile launches. Trimming back this massive complex without substantially diminishing its capability will be a Discount Prices I on all name brand luggage, 1 business cases and travelware. 1 JST fW QUALITY SERVICE AVAILAILE iJKl I ii 'ii'miurr r "' trT"- r TiririK i lmTjjrjL : f 7i 17775 MAIN ffTl ; 2 Mh ,R.Y'Ni J Y . ,bjj,(00)l-7090 DON ROOTEN ENTERPRISE ZV Los AnKclos Times Gary P. Miller new case also includes the car's owner, Oscar Portillo, who was charged with insurance fraud and who helped lead investigators to the alleged recruiter, Santiago. As investigators began peeling off the layers of the ring, all evidence began to point to Miller, Reiner said. "Miller, it turns out, was the rotten core," Reiner said. Reiner characterized Miller's arrest as "the first time we've been able to trace a staged accident back to an attorney." However, last February, Reiner filed felony charges against two attorneys believed to be involved in a ring that offered seminars on how to set up crashes and then file medical insurance claims. In addition to the four big -truck crashes, Miller has been linked to a freeway crash with a car, several other wrecks on streets, and one fake accident that occurred only on paper, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Barry Thorpe. Miller's involvement in the ring may have dated back to summer, 1990, Thorpe said. Investigators said Santiago was being paid from $500 to $1,000 by Miller for each phony accident he brought to the lawyer. After the fatal crash, Thorpe said, there is tricky job. The CIA, major aerospace contractors, congressional committees and military think tanks are conducting a broad range of classified studies to chart the course of military space. But relatively little serious public debate has been spent on the. issue in Congress, even though! military space spending ranks as! one of the biggest of federal pro- , curement. t "We don't have a national agen- 1 da," said TRW's Gorman. "We ' don't have a set of national priori- ; ties. We don't have a national strategic plan. We don't have any of that in this country. So is it any wonder that we don't have it in military space? Of course not." Such issues as whether the Air Force develops the National Launch System, the first new rocket booster since the 1960s, is an important matter to the space industry but way off the list of important issues in Congress. "The strategy of military space is too big for Congress to deal with and the individual programs are too small for Congress to deal with," Pike said. "We have this very large military space program predicated on the Cold War. . . . So it is only in the last year and a half that the terms of the debate have emerged. People are just now acknowledging that there is even a debate going on." of Crash-Fraud Scheme evidence that one of Miller's employees visited Lopez Perez's widow and offered to file a wrongful death suit against the driver of the car-carrier truck. During the investigation, California Highway Patrol investigators served a search warrant at Miller's law office. Reiner said that soon after that July 17 search, the attorney approached an insurance adjuster asking if he could "pull some strings" in the district attorney's office. "Instead of pulling strings, the adjuster was wired for sound by investigators and met with Miller to talk it over," Reiner said. Although luring large trucks into rear-end collisions is considered a particularly desperate and dangerous escalation, similar "swoop-and-squat" accidents are relatively common. Earlier this year, Reiner estimated that auto insurance fraud in Los Angeles County was eating up half the $4 billion paid by consumers in annual premiums, although state insurance experts say that the percentage may be lower. Exclusively at Anaheim, Costa Mesa and El Toro La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries Trade-in your old, used chair or sofa (any condition) and receive $100 off on new La-Z-Boy furniture. Choose from Orange County's largest jMfcj W E FURNISH SATISFACTION FiTSl mil 1 Yet during the truck crash investigations, state and local insurance investigators have repeatedly said that tracing the accidents to the attorneys and doctors who usually are at least accomplices, and sometimes the masterminds, is particularly difficult. On Friday, private attorney Scott Koppel of Long Beach who specializes in representing insurance companies in auto fraud cases said he recognized Miller's name from several cases handled by his office, but that Miller was "not a major player" in insurance fraud. "He's not one of the major players that I know of anyway," Koppel said. "But in the overall scheme of things, this freeway sudden-stop thing was a small piece too." The California Bar Assn. reported that Miller who passed the state Bar in 1977 had no record of public discipline. 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