Phantom collisions result in multiple arrests in auto insurance fraud case
News: 2014 Press Release
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Joel Paredes Saldana, 22, owner of Lightning Auto Body in Riverside County, was arrested Wednesday as Department of Insurance detectives and multiple allied agencies swept up at least 19 co-conspirators associated with an organized insurance fraud crime ring. Those arrested will face multiple felony charges that include grand theft, knowingly filing a fraudulent insurance claim, and conspiracy.
"This orchestrated phantom collision ring contributes to the multi-billion dollar drain on California's economy due to insurance fraud," said Commissioner Jones. "This is not a victimless crime. The cost of insurance fraud is borne by consumers who pay for it through higher premiums. Southern California is the auto fraud capitol of the nation. Our detectives and law enforcement partners are dedicated to shutting down these scams and arresting those participating in these complex crime rings."
Investigators from the Department of Insurance initially received information about the crime ring in 2013, when insurers recognized a pattern to Saldana's and his co-conspirators' insurance claims. Investigators allege that Saldana recruited friends and family members to pose as insurance consumers and, for a $500 bounty, filed claims for collisions that were either staged or didn't occur at all. As the ringleader, Saldana allegedly engineered an elaborate crime ring that staged up to 16 false insurance claims to receive a payout of over $314,000 from seven different insurance companies.
On June 25, 2014, following the department's investigation, a multiagency enforcement sweep found and arrested Saldana and various co-conspirators on multiple charges, including felony insurance fraud.
- Visual from press conference and arrest photos will be available on the CDI Flickr page.
- For those vehicles not totaled Saldana used his body shop to make fraudulent statements to support insurance claims.
- 13 in custody.
- Three unable to locate.
- Three to self-surrender.
- 16 counts filed against Saldana. If convicted, each count carries a maximum of 5 years.
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $310 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.4357. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.