|An Encino personal injury attorney convicted of insurance fraud in 1996
resigned from the bar in May, shortly before pleading no contest to the involuntary
manslaughter of an individual killed during a staged accident. The Supreme Court accepted
the resignation of GARY PAUL MILLER [#74789], 50, on May 13, 1999. He has
not practiced law since 1992. Miller had faced a second degree murder charge in the death
of Jose Luis Lopez Perez, an accident stager who died in a planned freeway collision with
a big rig truck in 1992.
Miller was sentenced to six years in state prison, a term that
will run concurrent with the six-year sentence from the 1996 conviction.
A jury deadlocked in favor of acquittal on a second degree murder charge in 1996.
Although the trial judge dismissed the murder charge, prosecutors revived it later.
In the earlier trial, Miller was convicted of nine felonies - seven counts of insurance
fraud and two counts of conspiracy - stemming from the investigation of a freeway
accident. Investigators determined that a carload of four men deliberately swerved in
front of a big rig truck on the Golden State Freeway. The truck jack-knifed, crushing the
car and killing one of the passengers.
Miller and four co-defendants were charged with murder in the case, which focused
attention on the use of staged accidents to commit auto insurance fraud.
In an unusual twist, prosecutors charged that as the fraud ring's mastermind, Miller
caused a chain of events that resulted in a fatal accident. Even though Miller may never
have met Lopez Perez, he had met with an intermediary who in turn conspired with those who
actually staged the accidents, prosecutors said.
He is believed to be the first attorney ever charged with murder in such an accident
Jurors deadlocked on the murder charge, however, nor were any of the co-defendants ever
convicted of murder.
Prosecutors re-filed the murder charge against Miller, and after the judge ruled they
could use the crime of conspiracy to stage accidents for the purpose of insurance fraud to
pursue a felony murder conviction, Miller pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter.
He had been placed on interim suspension by the State Bar following the 1996
conviction, and was suspended again and placed on five years of probation last year for
failing to comply with the terms of that order.
Miller originally was arrested in 1992 after being linked to a "capper" (an
accident stager) through financial records and business cards found in the capper's home.
The capper pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and conspiracy to commit insurance
fraud and served a four-year prison term.
Investigators believe cappers work directly with attorneys to stage accidents,
sometimes recruiting people off the street. After the crash, the attorney files medical
and liability insurance claims on behalf of the accident "victims."
Freeway truck collisions, called "swoop and squats" by authorities, entail a
driver of one vehicle pulling in front of a second vehicle, whose driver is forced to slam
on the brakes in front of a big rig.
At the time of his arrest, Miller was linked by investigators to eight suspected fake
accidents and was the subject of 55 complaints to the state Department of Insurance during
the five previous years, all from insurance companies suspecting fraud.