NEW YORK (AP) _ Federal authorities charged 53 people Thursday in a $1 million insurance fraud plot that used city streets for a game of bumper cars for profit.

The accidents, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said, ``were staged like a Broadway play.''

The FBI arrested 29 suspects, including the managers of a physical therapy clinic. The rest were being sought, except for the owner of a car service, Jean Maxon Lucien, who was arrested last month.

Lucien's attorney, Alexi Schacht, denied charges that he was a leader of a scheme to recruit recent immigrants, who then were paid a few hundred dollars to be passengers in cars that were purposely crashed into vehicles driven by unsuspecting motorists.

No one was injured in the 27 suspicious accidents that make up the case. But the victims-for-hire made fake medical claims through the physical therapy clinic, resulting in insurance payments of up to $22,000 a piece, authorities said at a news conference.

The suspects sometimes went so far as to choreograph ``accidents'' using two cars of their own to generate police reports, said Lynch. After one fake crash, a passenger in the first car sought an insurance settlement from the registered owner of the second: himself.

The fraud charges that Lucien and the other suspects face carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

``These defendants used the streets of New York as their own amusement park, playing a game of bumper cars, not for fun, but for profit,'' said Barry Mawn, head of the FBI's New York office, adding that their arrests stemmed from a 10-month investigation. ``The accidents were no accident.''

Mawn said the Brooklyn-based ring reflected a growing and costly trend in fraud brought by swindlers seeking to exploit no-fault insurance laws. The laws require insurers to cover anyone injured in an accident, regardless of who caused it.