LOS ANGELES – On March 26, 2018, an Orange County public adjuster was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for stealing more than $1.2 million from insurance payouts belonging to fire victims.
Jose Villa, 62, of San Clemente pleaded no contest to eight felony counts of diverting construction funds. Villa also admitted to sentencing enhancement allegations of excessive taking of property and aggravated white-collar crime.
In addition to the prison sentence, the judge also imposed a $10,000 fine and ordered restitution to the victims in the amount of $1,213,227.23.
“White collar crime is not a victimless crime and no one knows that better than the detectives and investigators at the California Department of Insurance,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “There are too many cases of fraud and embezzlement is this state, stressing the ever-necessary need for insurance detectives and investigators.”
Villa was a licensed public adjuster who owned and operated Statewide Claims Advisors Inc. in Irvine. The victims in this case were the owners of a commercial building in Whittier and the owner of a residential rental property in Los Angeles. The victims had hired Villa to serve as their public adjuster after their properties were damaged in fires in 2013.
The prosecutor said Villa deposited the victims’ insurance reimbursement checks into his business checking account, ostensibly so he could handle demolition and construction at the victims’ properties in the months following the fires. However, he kept most of the insurance money instead of using it for the victims’ benefit.
The District Attorney’s Office filed charges on Oct. 4, 2017.
This case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Commercial Crime Bureau and the California Department of Insurance.
As part of the negotiated plea agreement, a seven-year prison sentence that Villa is serving for another insurance fraud case will run concurrently to the 10-year term imposed in this case. In the earlier case, Villa was convicted in May 2017 of two felony counts each of grand theft by embezzlement and forgery for taking insurance proceeds from other fire victims.
As a result of Villa’s conduct, the California Department of Insurance revoked Villa’s license to serve as a public adjuster and permanently barred him from applying for or holding any license it issues.