California Bar Journal
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Attorney facing charges in death of accident stager resigns
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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 fraud scheme.

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.