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News: 2014 Press Release
For Release: January 15, 2014
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Rancho Cucamonga attorney convicted of using paid recruiters to prey on accident victims
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Walter Martinez, 60, from Alta Loma pled guilty to 43 felony counts of using cappers (recruiters paid from victims' insurance settlement) to get clients for his practice. Martinez ran this scheme with at least three cappers. Martinez was sentenced to 365 days in jail, followed by three years felony probation and a $91,000 fine.
"The use of cappers is a problem because these individuals usually approach accident victims acting as an attorney with no training and give legal advice to people when they are vulnerable after a collision," said Commissioner Dave Jones. "My department is adamant about insurance protection for all Californians and my team works diligently to prevent professionals from using business practices that are illegal to victimize consumers."
The Department of Insurance Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force, received information and documentation that indicated Martinez was using cappers. In this case, bank records showed that more than $250,000 in checks were written to the alleged cappers between 2009 and 2012.
"The success of this case was based on the vigorous effort of the investigators at the Department of Insurance to thwart unethical activity committed by professionals in our community," said Deputy District Attorney of San Bernardino, Jim McGee.
If you have been approached at the scene of a collision or hospital by individuals offering to refer you to a specific attorney, chiropractor, or body shop for repairs, you should avoid sharing any information with these illegal cappers or runners.
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- Consumers approached by cappers/runners should contact the Department of Insurance hotline at 800-927-4537 or local law enforcement.
- Walter Martinez originally appeared in court on March 20, 2013 and was sentenced on December 19, 2013.
Cappers also sentenced in this case:
- Israel Gonzales, 34 of Rancho Cucamonga, plead guilty to eight counts 750(a) IC.
- Michael Melcher, 58 of Covina, plead guilty to two counts 750(a) IC.
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California, regulating the $123 billion insurance marketplace. In 2013 the California Department of Insurance received more than 170,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $63 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 or 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.