A former state prison guard was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison yesterday for staging phony accidents and filing false claims with insurance companies.
In addition to imposing a jail term, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis also levied a two-year probation against the Ghana native, Prince Robert Odiko, 37, who lives in the 3700 block of Elmley Ave. in Baltimore.
Judge Garbis allowed him to remain on home detention until he reports April 5 to a federal prison.
A federal jury convicted Odiko of four counts of mail fraud on Nov. 16. The panel found that he was part of a ring of Ghanaian natives who defrauded insurance companies of more than $600,000.
A grand jury has indicted 12 other people on charges of being part of the conspiracy. Odiko is the only one who has gone to trial.
One man pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and was sentenced to three months in a halfway house and three months of home detention. Two women and seven men are awaiting sentencing on their guilty pleas.
Two men have become fugitives. Authorities believe that Kwame Awua Adjei, 35, and Thomas Aboraah, 36, are in Ghana.
"Most of the pleas came after Odiko's trial. I don't think that was a surprise," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas B. Farquhar, who prosecuted the case along with U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett.
Odiko was fired from his job as a corrections officer at the Maryland Correctional Institute at Jessup after being charged in the scam.
Odiko and other participants of the scam used their own vehicles to stage accidents with one another on Baltimore-area streets. At times, they didn't bother to crash their autos; they just scripted accidents on paper.
They complained of fake injuries to their lawyers and doctors, and filed claims with insurance companies for pain and suffering and lost wages. No doctors or lawyers were part of the scam, prosecutors said.
Participants in the scam used phony names, addresses and Social Security numbers to make their claims. Their indictments in June resulted from statutes that make it a federal crime to use the U.S. mail in a fraud.
Odiko submitted claims saying that injuries sustained in an accident forced him to remain indoors for about two months, but records show that he worked 40-hour weeks during that period.
Richard W. Winelander, the defense attorney, said Odiko's sentence was fair, in light of federal guidelines. He said his client probably will not appeal.