Missouri Duo Sentenced in $1.1M Auto Insurance Fraud Scheme

Sixteen people have been sentenced in the case so far.


Two Missouri residents were sentenced March 6 in federal court for their roles in orchestrating an insurance fraud scheme, staging car accidents to swindle more than $1 million.

Michael Lee Gene Stapleton, 37, and Latoya Marie Brown, 37, both of Columbia, MO, entered guilty pleas in 2023. Stapleton admitted to two counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud and Brown to charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Stapleton was sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay $166,363 in restitution to his victims. Brown was sentenced to four years in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay $72,069 in restitution to her victims.

Their actions were part of a larger conspiracy, led by Lawrence Courtney Lawhorn, 36, of Kansas City, MO, from June 2017 through July 2020, that targeted six insurance companies, defrauding them through staged accidents and fraudulent injury claims.

FBI investigators found Lawhorn recruited friends, acquittances, family and friends of friends to participate in the staged accidents. Conspirators went to various medical providers, claiming injuries from the staged accidents and requesting various testing, such a MRIs, CT scans and X-rays. Conspirators then submitted false claims to insurance companies that they had suffered bodily injuries and they would be personally liable for any medical bills related to insurance claims. Conspirators, some of whom were involved in multiple incidents, received thousands of dollars, and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars, based on these false claims. However, none of the conspirators made any payments to medical providers and instead used the funds for their personal expenses.

Brown's involvement in three staged incidents netted her more than $44,000 in insurance payments. Stapleton admitted he and co-defendant Tara Colleen Jackson, 60, of Independence, MO, who is Lawhorn’s mother, participated in a staged automobile accident in Kansas City. State Farm issued a $50,000 check to Stapleton and a $50,000 check to Jackson. None of the medical bills, totaling $188,920 at two hospitals where Stapleton and Jackson were treated, have been paid.

Stapleton and Brown are among 16 defendants who have been sentenced in this case.

Lawhorn pleaded guilty in June 2023 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Lawhorn also pleaded guilty in a separate and unrelated case to commit wire fraud. His sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

Jackson pleaded guilty in April 2023 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and awaits sentencing.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron M. Maness. It was investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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