An official website of the United States government
Here’s how you know
Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.
Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that attorneys GEORGE CONSTANTINE and MARC ELEFANT and orthopedic surgeon ANDREW DOWD were sentenced yesterday and today for their participation in a massive trip-and-fall fraud scheme between 2013 and 2018. CONSTANTINE and DOWD, who were convicted at trial in December 2022 of mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, were each sentenced to 102 months in prison. ELEFANT, who pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, was sentenced to 24 months in prison. U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein imposed all three sentences.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “George Constantine, Andrew Dowd, and Marc Elefant abused their professional licenses and degrees and exploited some of the most vulnerable members of society – many of whom were poor, drug addicts, or homeless – in order to enrich themselves through this egregious trip-and-fall fraud scheme. As officers of the court, Constantine and Elefant had a duty to honestly represent their clients and uphold the rule of law. Instead, they filed hundreds of fraudulent lawsuits that were filled with lies and stole millions of dollars from small businesses and insurance companies. Likewise, Dowd, as a medical doctor, took an oath to do no harm. But motivated by pure greed, Dowd performed hundreds of medically unnecessary surgeries, earning thousands of dollars per surgery. These sentences send a clear message to all who chose to engage in fraud – no matter their professional title or degree – that they will be held accountable.”
According to the Indictment, the evidence presented in court during trial, and other statements made during court proceedings:
Between 2013 and 2018, CONSTANTINE, ELEFANT, and DOWD, among others, engaged in an extensive fraud scheme (the “Fraud Scheme” or “Scheme”), through which Scheme participants defrauded businesses and insurance companies by staging trip-and-fall accidents and filing fraudulent lawsuits arising from those staged trip-and-fall accidents. CONSTANTINE and ELEFANT were personal injury lawyers involved in the Scheme, while DOWD was an orthopedic surgeon.
Fraud Scheme participants recruited individuals (the “Patients”) to stage or falsely claim to have suffered trip-and-fall accidents at particular locations throughout the New York City area (the “Accident Sites”). In the course of the Fraud Scheme, Scheme participants recruited more than 400 Patients. Members of the Fraud Scheme often recruited Patients who were extremely poor. For example, it was common for Patients to ask for food when they would appear for their intake meetings with the lawyers. Many of the Patients did not have sufficient clothing to keep them warm during the winter and had poor quality shoes. Members of the Fraud Scheme also recruited Patients who were drug addicts, and it was common for Scheme participants to recruit Patients from homeless shelters in New York City.
In the beginning, Scheme participants would instruct Patients to claim they had tripped and fallen at a particular location, when in fact, the Patients had suffered no such accidents. Eventually, at the direction of the lawyers who filed fraudulent lawsuits on behalf of the Patients, Scheme participants began to instruct Patients to stage trip-and-fall accidents, i.e., to go to a location and deliberately fall. Common Accident Sites used during the Fraud Scheme included cellar doors, cracks in concrete sidewalks, and purported “potholes.”
After the staged trip-and-fall accidents, Patients were referred to specific attorneys, including CONSTANTINE and ELEFANT, who would file personal injury lawsuits (the “Fraudulent Lawsuits”) against the owners of the Accident Sites and/or insurance companies of the owners of the accident sites (the “Victims”). The Fraudulent Lawsuits did not disclose that the Patients had deliberately fallen at the Accident Sites or, in some cases, had not fallen at all. During the course of the Fraud Scheme, the defendants, together with others, attempted to defraud the Victims of more than $31,000,000. CONSTANTINE personally filed nearly 200 Fraudulent Lawsuits and earned more than $5 million dollars in settlement fees from these fraudulent cases. ELEFANT likewise filed nearly 200 Fraudulent Lawsuits and earned millions of dollars in settlement fees.
The Patients were also instructed to receive ongoing chiropractic and medical treatment from certain chiropractors and doctors, including DOWD. The Fraud Scheme participants advised the Patients that if they intended to continue with their lawsuits, they were required to undergo surgery, which was critical to boosting the value of any potential settlement. Patients generally were told to undergo two surgeries. Fraud Scheme participants looked for doctors, like DOWD, who were willing to perform surgeries, even when others would not. During the course of the Scheme, DOWD performed nearly 300 medically unnecessary surgeries and earned more than $3.2 million dollars. DOWD received approximately $10,000 per surgery.
* * *
In addition to their prison terms, CONSTANTINE, 60, of Plainview, New York, DOWD, 67, of Miller Place, New York, and ELEFANT, 50, of Woodmere, New York, were each sentenced to three years of supervised release. CONSTANTINE was further ordered to pay $4,774,709 in forfeiture. DOWD was further ordered to pay $2,900,905 in forfeiture. ELEFANT was further ordered to pay $955,281.54 in forfeiture. Restitution will be decided by the Court within 90 days of today’s sentencings.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Williams also thanked the National Insurance Crime Bureau for their assistance in the investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Chiuchiolo, Nicholas Folly, Danielle Kudla, and Alexandra Rothman are in charge of the prosecution.
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Jocelyn E. Strauber, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”), announced today…
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Patrick J. Freaney, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the United…
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced earlier today that NEIL COLE, the former Chief Executive Officer of Iconix Brand Group, Inc. (“Iconix”)…
Southern District of New York
One St. Andrew’s Plaza
New York, NY 10007
Main Office & Criminal Division: (212) 637-2200
Have a question about Government Services?
An official website of the United States government