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News: 2012 Press Release

For Release: July 18, 2012
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones Announces Sentencing of Fresno Man for Insurance Fraud
Suspect Preyed Upon Senior Citizen

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today announced that Joseph Varrella, 49, of Fresno was sentenced on 19 felony counts of insurance fraud on July 13. Varrella, who has been in custody since his arrest in June 2011, received a 21-year sentence-18 in custody, with three on supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $189,000 in restitution.

"One of my top priorities is bringing to justice unscrupulous individuals who prey upon innocent seniors," said Commissioner Jones.  

According to investigators, Varrella staged a home burglary and filed a false insurance claim against the victim's homeowners policy. The joint investigation between the California Department of Insurance Fraud Division and the Fresno County Sheriff's Office found Varrella continued filing losses over the fictitious burglary and defrauded the AAA Insurance Exchange of $189,000.

He told the company he was the insured woman's personal assistant, handling almost all of the issues involved in the claim. Varrella stretched the claims process out over 30 months, claiming additional items were stolen or damaged. He used much of the money to buy large quantities of tools and other items for his own gain. Investigators seized $31,500 in cash and about $150,000 worth of tools and other items at five different locations.

Varrella faces additional felony charges related to witness intimidation, attempts to dissuade a witness, and violations of a court order.

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The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California, regulating the $123 billion insurance marketplace. In 2012 the California Department of Insurance received more than 160,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $64 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Out-of-state callers, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

If you are a member of the public wishing information, please visit our Consumer Services.

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