Eyewitness News learns from officials all but three of the 36 people charged have been arrested or agreed to turn themselves in. Officials say those three are Ryan Maun, Shaun Gibson and Jerry McGill.

Original Story

United States Attorney Josh Minkler announces 36 people face federal charges for an alleged fraud scheme involving staging car crashes for insurance money.

Three SWAT teams and more than 70 federal, state and local law enforcement officials served warrants Tuesday morning.

The indictment alleges that between 2008 and 2014, Michael Burris, Sr., his wife Lisa Burris, their sons Justin Burris and David Smitha, and others, planned a series of car crashes in the Evansville area. 

They allegedly recruited others to help stage crashes, make false police reports and then file claims with insurance providers for either self-inflicted or fabricated “injuries” as a result of the staged crash.

How was it done?

The attorney’s office tells Eyewitness News in several scenarios, those involved acquired a car, made sure the car was insured,  got someone to crash the car in a remote area into a tree or a fixed object that would cause significant damage.

After the crash, the driver would leave the scene and others involved who were waiting nearby would enter the car and wait for emergency personnel to respond. 

The attorney’s office adds they would then make a false police report and be taken to the hospital for their supposed injuries.  The cars were often loaded with three or four people after the staged crash to maximize insurance claims.

The indictment also alleges Burris Sr. and his alleged conspirators purposely injured the “victims” to make it seem like they sustained the injuries in the crash.  The attorney’s office says they did this by punching them in the face, cutting their face with a razor blade and using a wire brush on their forehead.

Lisa Burris and other alleged conspirators  showed the crash participants how to appear injured by not exiting the vehicle under their own power, using emergency medical resources, and running up medical expenses through hospital stays. 

She reportedly had the “victims” submit false insurance claims and would coach them how to answer questions from the insurance representatives.

When the crash participants received their claim checks from insurance companies, it is alleged in the indictment that Michael Burris, Sr. and those involved would go directly to the bank that the check was written from, get cash, and divide it among the alleged conspirators.

Who is investigating?

This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, United States Postal Inspection Service, Evansville Police Department, Indiana State Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office, the United States Marshal Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives assisted in the arrest of the 36 people charged in the indictment Tuesday.

“Over the last year and half, the Secret Service has tirelessly pursued justice with the assistance of many other federal, state and local agencies,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Paul Dvorak.  “Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime.  This type of fraud can have a significant detrimental effect on the economy of our community.  We are proud that the significant and numerous arrests made here today will have a positive impact on the city of Evansville and hopefully deter similar crimes in the future.”


“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to strongly pursue its mission of investigating mail fraud crimes and protecting the US Postal Service and its customers,” stated Inspector in Charge, Tommy Coke, Pittsburgh Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“When I started my career in retail loss prevention over twenty years ago, the Burris family and their associates were one of the first criminal groups I dealt with,” said Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin.  “It would be nice if they learned from their past mistakes, but it appears they’ve just become more sophisticated in their schemes.”

“I’m pleased the state police were able to play a role in advancing this investigation” said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter.  “Financial crimes like this impact insurance premiums for honest people and this particular criminal enterprise also resulted in public safety resources responding to staged crash scenes,” Carter concluded.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd S. Shellenbarger and Kyle Sawa, who are prosecuting this case for the government, say each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years of supervised release.

Who was involved?

Michael Burris, Sr., 56, of Evansville
Lisa Burris, 53, of Evansville
David Smitha, 38, of Evansville
Justin Burris, 26, of Evansville
Amanda Carreno, 35, of Evansville
Timothy Ivy, 44, of Evansville
Michael Burris, Jr., 30, of Evansville
Timothy Rice, 38, of Evansville
Shawn Wright, 21, of Henderson
Jordan Lawrence, 21, of Evansville
Joshua Norman, 25, of Evansville
Shaun Gibson, 36, of Evansville
Kyle Blake Lee Smitha, 20, of Evansville
Thomas Thomas, 21, of Evansville
Alyssa Vailes, 22, of Evansville
Latisha Smith, 36, of Evansville
Dillon Williams, 22, of Evansville
Brooke Cox, 32, of Evansville
Brooke Ewers, 27, of Evansville
Toni Wilson, 41, of Evansville
Jerry McGill, 55, of Evansville
Benjamin Widick, 42, of Evansville
Lynn Smith, 34, of Evansville
Phillip Gibson, 37, of Chandler
Michelle Stuard, 30, of Evansville
Ariel Pace, 24, of Evansville
Ashley Hines, 29, of Evansville
Crystal Uziekalla, 41, of Evansville
David Uziekalla, 38, of Wadesville
Tiffany Bowen, 26, of Evansville
Shawna Morell, 35, of Chandler
Jamey Grant, 27, of Evansville
Ryan Maun, 28, of Evansville
Mary Houchin, 36, of Evansville
Theresa Frank, 31, of Boonville
Ashley Hines, 29, of Evansville
Crystal Uziekalla, 41, of Evansville
David Uziekalla, 38, of Wadesville
Tiffany Bowen, 26, of Evansville
Shawna Morell, 35, of Chandler
Jamey Grant, 27, of Evansville
Ryan Maun, 28, of Evansville
Mary Houchin, 36, of Evansville
Theresa Frank, 31, of Boonville
Sherry Greenwalt