Insurance fraud is not normally very entertaining but Mississippi prosecutors are still hee-hawing over a recent incident involving a staged multi-car crash in Yazoo County, the "Gateway to the Delta."
Attorney General Jim Hood called it "one of those humorous, Apple Dumpling Gang type cases, an apparent reference to a 1975 Disney film that celebrates chicanery, skulduggery and general bungling. Others suggested "My Cousin Vinnie" might be more applicable.
It all began, we're told, on a lonesome Yazoo County road, where passing motorists saw what appeared to be a multi-car accident, with the bodies of apparent victims sprawled nearby.
Police and ambulance crews converged on the scene but immediately became suspicious. For one thing, the "victims" didn't appear to be very seriously -- if at all -- injured. For another, the engine on a battered black Cadillac was cold to the touch, not something you'd normally expect just a few minutes after an accident.
But perhaps most telling was the little matter of the tow chain.
"The caper unraveled when alert law enforcement officers noticed that one of the vehicles had been towed to the crime scene. They found the tow chain still attached to the vehicle," Hood said.
The alert Yazoo County constabulary made its way to the local hospital, where they arrested Terrence Wade and obtained confessions from several other paticipants before turning the case over to the Insurance Fraud Unit of the Attorney General's Office.
One defendant in the case, Kevin Jones, upon deducing that his arrest was imminent, went out and committed a robbery to raise money for his bail, Hood said.
While it has been a source of amusement mixed with consternation in the Greater Yazoo area, the case is about to fade into the history books, or at least the local courtroom blotter. The last defendant, Lorenzo Deering, 24, of 1511 Ebenezer Pickens Road in Pickens, appeared before Judge Jannie M. Lewis in Yazoo County Circuit Court last week.
Dearing entered an open plea, which means the defendant refused to accept the state's recommended sentence and threw himself on the mercy of the court.
Judge Lewis sentenced Deering to three years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, suspended, and sent Deering to the restitution center to pay all fines and court costs.