On May 29th, 2014

Target Los Angeles: Staged Car Accident Capital of the U.S. Auto insurance fraud capital of the state

csleaWe have said it before and we will say it again, there is no shortage of work for our CSLEA members in the California Department of Insurance (CDI).

"It seems as if CDI investigators could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and still have caseloads of investigations," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.  "It's unfortunate that there are so many unscrupulous people stealing from the rest of us, but CDI investigators and the district attorneys they work with  are making it clear, they're out to put  a dent in the number of people staging accidents and committing insurance fraud in this state."

CDI has made a concerted effort to wipe out auto insurance fraud in Los Angeles by targeting staged accidents and fraudulent vehicle vandalism.  Here's an example of what investigators have uncovered in Los Angeles in recent months:

  • Carlos Mireles, 25, of Riverside reported his truck had been stolen and made an insurance claim. The department's investigation uncovered Mireles had been drinking at a party and crashed his truck. Mireles was arrested on May 21, 2014. The Riverside County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.
  • George Gallegos, 38, was allegedly involved in a traffic accident at a Sam's Club in Ontario, and was uninsured at the time of the accident. The investigation revealed that Gallegos purchased insurance after the accident and provided the information to the other party. The other party was asked by Gallegos to say the accident happened after the time he purchased the insurance. The insurance company uncovered the scheme, declined coverage and reported the fraudulent claim. Gallegos surrendered to the Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse on April 17, 2014. This case will be prosecuted by the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.
  • Brittani Harris, 26, of Oxnard was arrested on April 15, 2014 on insurance fraud and forgery charges. Harris let her insurance lapse but after being involved in an auto accident paid her lapsed policy. Harris failed to inform her agent that her vehicle had been in an accident. Allegedly, Harris called the next morning and filed a claim. It was also discovered that Harris altered a CHP incident report to legitimize her false insurance claim. The Ventura County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.
  • Michael and Brenda Berry allegedly conspired to leave their vehicle in Mexico and reported the vehicle had been stolen from Riverside County, in order to receive the insurance proceeds. Michael Berry is still outstanding. The Riverside County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.
  • Tanisha Kyle, 23, and another individual were involved in an airport collision the morning of March 18, 2010. Los Angeles Police responded and took a collision report. Later that day, Kyle along with Sheila Bryant, 48, and Shyama Flournoy, 27, reported they were involved in another collision while in the same vehicle. Department of insurance investigators discovered the second collision never happen. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.
  • Jose Cerda, 36, of San Bernardino allegedly set fire to his own vehicle and then had his wife file an insurance claim resulting in an $18,000 insurance payout. Investigators discovered that the fire was the result of arson. This case will be prosecuted by the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.

Upon conviction, the suspects  arrested for these crimes face up to five years in prison and fines up to $50,000 for each offense.

From National Insurance Crime Bureau: video of Swoop and Swat Staged Accident

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