SANTA CLARA – On December 4, 2017, The California Department of Insurance announced the arrest of 18 suspects allegedly involved in a staged accident ring in Santa Clara County. Brothers Angel Topete, 36, and Joshua Topete, 34, both of San Martin were arrested on numerous felony charges for allegedly running an organized auto insurance fraud scam involving more than 20 other individuals and 18 staged collisions netting conspirators $210,000 in fraudulent auto insurance claims.
"This large ring of family and friends allegedly conspired to defraud insurers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "The cost of insurance fraud is shouldered by consumers who pay higher premiums when insurers pass along their losses. Working with our task force partners is critical in combating the multi-billion dollar problem of insurance fraud."
The arrests are the result of a two-year investigaton by the Silicon Valley Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force, which is comprised of investigators from the California Department of Insurance (CDI) Fraud Division, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, and the California Highway Patrol.
The investigation revealed the Topete brothers allegedly conspired with family, friends and associates who posed as insurance consumers and filed fraudulent claims with six different insurers for collisions that were either staged or never occurred at all.
Evidence revealed many of the claims involved salvaged vehicles, new insurance policies and variations of a name used on other similar claims. In some cases, suspects purchased insurance policies and then intentionally crashed cars into one or more vehicles owned by co-conspirators. All parties then filed fraudulent claims, which resulted in insurers paying the full value of the vehicles after it was declared a total loss.
“California Department of Insurance investigators often conduct lengthy, complex investigations involving dozens of suspects,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “It angers law-abiding consumers that unlawful individuals scheme and scam, padding their own wallets while the rest of us pay more. My thanks to the investigators who work these cases, make arrests and assist in the prosecution.”
As of December 4, 2017, 18 of the 22 suspects had been arrested and booked.
Suspects named by the California Department of insurance.
- Alma Elisa Aguilar, 39, San Jose
- Blanca Arias-Guerrero, 48, San Jose
- Pedro Ozuna, 33, San Jose
- Eric Harrison, 33, Gilroy
- Gregory Carl Harrison, 53, Gilroy
- Guadalupe Cardenas, 32, San Jose
- Maria Cruz, 29, San Jose
- Jairon Escobar, 44, Milpitas
- Ivan Espinoza, 31, San Jose
- Edgar Hernandez, 31, San Jose
- Nora Lopez, 41, San Jose
- Hugo Lua, 39, Hollister
- Daniel Mendoza, 57, Milpitas
- Gabriel Osuna, 24, Gridley
- Carlos Ernesto Recinos, 46, San Jose
- Angel Topete, 36, Martin
- Joshua Topete, 34, Martin
- Rafael Rangel, 35, San Jose
- Samuel Osuna, 27, San Jose
- Claudia Estrada, 22, Gridley
- Altamirano Venancio, 35, San Jose