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MS-13, Russian Mobsters Forcing Immigrants into Dangerous Surgeries in Multi-Million Dollar Scam

The fake injury scams are driving up insurance premiums, adding to the cost of living crisis.
Snoopy, an American-born citizen of El Salvadoran heritage, is a member of Mara Salvatrucha-13 (MS-13) | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Nickelsberg
Snoopy, an American-born citizen of El Salvadoran heritage, is a member of Mara Salvatrucha-13 (MS-13) | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Nickelsberg

One of the most dangerous international criminal gangs, MS-13, is running an elaborate scam along with Russian mobsters in New York. Aided by corrupt surgeons, lawyers, and lenders, the two groups are using immigrants to pull off fake personal injury lawsuits that lead to settlements worth millions of dollars.

As per a The Hatch Institute report, cited by The New York Post, migrants and New Yorkers are undergoing unnecessary surgeries to add value to the fake-accident claims. The details were revealed in a recent lawsuit brought in by an insurer against several doctors and law firms. 


Tradesman Program Managers insurance firm, a carrier covering contractors and construction companies in Poughkeepsie, has been the target of the elaborate racket.

The company says it paid over $142 million in 2022, which is three times the amount of $36 million that it paid out in 2018. The company claimed it has been hit with 650 allegedly fraudulent suits over the last four years.

“We’re talking billions collectively across the city,” an insurance executive told The Post.


In retaliation, Tradesman and its underwriter sued eight doctors, two law firms, and 36 lawyers, healthcare providers, and companies in Brooklyn Federal Court in March. The court papers share intricate details of the scam and how it is being operated by mobsters.

“They train the migrants how to act at some of these staged accidents,” Tradesman lawyer Kirk Willis told ABC7. These people allegedly go to the lawyers before going to a doctor. These lawyers then set up the course that leads to fraudulent lawsuits and medical claims.


The racket typically hires or ropes in a healthy person who takes a minor fall or tumbles on the street or at a construction site. This minor tumble is then turned into a claim for a devastating injury that requires multiple surgeries by a fraudulent lawyer.

In the next step, a corrupt doctor/surgeon performs extensive surgical procedures to increase the value of the claims made in the lawsuit against the business, landlord, or others.  As per The Post, the settlements for these cases start at $1 million and can go much higher. 

Pedestrians cross the street at a busy intersection on the West Side of Manhattan | Getty Images | Photo by Spencer Platt
Pedestrians cross the street at a busy intersection on the West Side of Manhattan | Getty Images | Photo by Spencer Platt

In one case detailed in the court papers, Lesly Ortiz, a native of the Dominican Republic who came to New York in 2018, was used to forge a fake medical case.

Ortiz worked as a hotel housekeeper. He tripped on the sidewalk on West 158th Street in Manhattan and fell on her back in a seated position. Ortiz allegedly walked it off and went home after the fall.

The next day, when Ortiz visited the Columbia Presbyterian ER, medics performed an X-ray and found nothing wrong, hospital records show. Doctors prescribed her ibuprofen and sent her home.

However, Ortiz, whose aunt’s ex-boyfriend was part of the ring of scam runners, suggested she contact the Subin law firm, Ortiz told The Post. She was signed on as a client just 24 hours after leaving the hospital, as per the court papers.

Ortiz was then directed to Dr. Michael Gerling, an orthopedic surgeon. Dr Gerling performed two surgeries on Ortiz, a lumbar and a cervical fusion, Ortiz claimed while the court papers say he did one fusion on her back. Neither procedure was allegedly needed and they only added to her pain. Her case was used in the bogus lawsuit and medical claims.

As per the report, these scams rely on law firms that take on hundreds of such cases. They work in tandem with high-profile doctors, sketchy lending firms, and an army of “runners” who recruit victims and orchestrate their falls.

The scammers keep most of the windfall settlements, while the people who pose as the injured receive as little as $1,000 each, despite going through the most trouble, according to testimony in one case.

As per the lawsuit, Russian hoodlums are suspected of running lending firms that fund trip-and-fall lawsuits and surgeries at hugely inflated rates. The MS-13 allegedly provides the pipeline of Hispanic migrants who are often brought to New York to fake injuries.

The Russian-MS-13 partnership “is a perfect marriage for them,” a second ex-NYPD source, told The Post.


Due to the massive racket and the elaborate schemes, insurance claim losses have tripled since the pandemic, and the payouts are driving up premiums, which add to the burden of the high cost of living for all New Yorkers.