ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A Russian man living in Anchorage on an expired student visa is suspected of scamming more than $200,000 from insurance companies by staging car crashes.
Rustem Mukhametshin, 26, was arrested Wednesday as he prepared to board a jet to leave Alaska.
He is charged with one count of wire fraud.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that Mukhametshin arrived in Alaska in June 2007 on a J-1 visa. That clearance allows foreign students to attend college in the United States.
The visa expired that September but Mukhametshin did not leave.
The Department of Homeland Security in 2010 arrested Mukhametshin and he was ordered to leave the country voluntarily by December 2012 but instead put in motion a fraud scheme, prosecutors said.
Mukhametshin had bought and sold cars on Craigslist.org since 2007 and used another website, VK.com, a European social networking site, to meet other foreign students whom he recruited for the insurance scam, prosecutors said.
The conspirators mostly used cars that had been pronounced demolished in other wrecks but were rebuilt and put back on the road.
Most of the staged crashes, prosecutors said, involved two cars. In some cases, cars hit non-moving objects.
In a dozen crashes, none had witnesses other than the drivers. All but one took place between midnight and 2:30 a.m. and no injuries were reported.
Mukhametshin, prosecutors said, was at the scene for five of the wrecks. The cars were demolished in each case.
“Based on the claims reports, all five (of those) accidents involved collisions with Russian or Ukrainian individuals. Four of the five individuals were here in the United States on J-1 visas, while one was a legal permanent resident and friend of Rustem’s, who emigrated from Russia,” prosecutors said in the charging documents.
The conspirators used 22 vehicles and made fraudulent claims to Progressive, Geico and State Farm insurance companies.
Mukhametshin in wire transfers starting in November sent $209,109 to people in Russia, according to the wire fraud charge.