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A 38-year-old Scarborough man who staged more than a dozen crashes and defrauded insurance companies of $1.5 million pleaded guilty in a University Avenue courtroom Friday.

Uthayakanthan Thirunavukkarasu, also known as Max or Mano, admitted to participating in a criminal organization, proceeds of crime, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and fraud charges.

In 2007, Thirunavukkarasu’s organization cruised salvage yards for wrecked vehicles that had been written off. Then a licensed mechanic would supply fraudulent safety certificates and members would crash the cars into each other on city streets.

Insurance companies gave out cheques to replace the cars and provide medical benefits to 46 passengers, whose health assessments came from people who worked for Thirunavukkarasu.

“Aside from the money, which is substantial, the real problem is that these groups are orchestrating staged collisions on city streets … putting not only the people that are involved at risk but also general members of the public who could be in the area,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Meloche.

“They’re tying up ambulances, fire and emergency wards unnecessarily, making those resources unavailable for people that legitimately need them.”

Police charged 34 people as a result of Project Green Light, their investigation into the crime ring.

Last month, Auditor General Jim McCarter slammed the Ontario government for not doing enough to curb auto insurance fraud — a problem he said costs about $1.3 billion a year.

Thirunavukkarasu will be sentenced in March.

With files from Marianne Boucher

01/13/2012  | Marcia Chen, CityNews.ca

http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/news/local/article/180593–man-who-staged-crashes-admits-to-1-5m-insurance-fraud