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CA Department of Insurance

South Bay staged car crash scam ring busted – 33 suspects charged

News: 2015 Press Release

For Release: July 16, 2015
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
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South Bay staged car crash scam ring busted – 33 suspects charged

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Thirty-three suspects, most of them from San Jose, were charged this week for their part in an alleged ring that intentionally crashed older cars into each other and then collected insurance money. The staged collision scam resulted in insurance pay outs of about $500,000.

The arrests came as the result of the three-year, multi-agency "Coffee Break" investigation. Suspects often claimed they accidentally spilled coffee on themselves, which caused them to lose control of their cars and crash.

Charged with felony insurance fraud, the defendants face prison time, if convicted. Arraignments are scheduled for late this week.

Santa Clara prosecutor Charlotte Chang said, "Each false insurance claim paid out by insurance companies adds up to a large sum, eventually passed along to every policyholder through higher insurance premiums."

This case was investigated by the Organized Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force with detectives from the California Department of Insurance, California Highway Patrol, and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. The scam was uncovered after a CHP investigator noticed that numerous auto crash claims seemed to have a pattern of similarities. An investigation revealed multiple crash claims from 2010 to 2012 - almost all in Santa Clara County - were made by the suspects, often with insurance policies that were bought shortly before the alleged accidents. A number of suspects filed multiple claims using different fictitious names or aliases.

"California is ground zero for staged auto collisions, which costs the insurance industry billions in losses every year," Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said. "Consumers pay for these crimes when insurers pass along the losses."

With some variation, the alleged scam involved a suspect purchasing an auctioned or salvaged vehicle, or recruiting someone with a car on which they were making payments. The suspect would intentionally crash the car into one to two other vehicles, owned by co-conspirators. The owners of the vehicles would contact the insurance company and claim the loss. In most cases, the vehicles were written off as totaled by the insurance companies. They would pay the owners or lienholders the full value of their cars. Some of the vehicles were used in the scheme numerous times, getting wrecked, repaired and wrecked again.

List of in-custody suspects as of July 15, 2015.

  1. Sergio Diaz Landa, 46, Stockton
  2. Jorge Salazar, 53, San Jose
  3. Vicent Dominguez Ojeda, 32, San Jose
  4. Jose Santos Salzar, 52, San Jose
  5. Ramon Lujano Arreguin, 63, San Jose
  6. Oscar Diaz Landa, 45,  San Jose
  7. Maria Barragan Corral, 34, Gilroy
  8. Irma Rodriguez, 34, San Jose
  9. Eduardo Ayon, 37, San Jose
  10. Oscar Escobar, 37, San Jose
  11. Rodolfo Guillen Alvizar, 31, Unknown
  12. Santos Escobar Alvarado, 35, Redwood City
  13. Beatriz Chavez, 34, San Jose
  14. Rene Partida Delgadillo, 45, San Jose

Media Notes:

  • Photos of suspects can be found on CDI's Flickr page.
  • Contact for Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office: Charlotte Chang, Deputy District Attorney - 408-792-2974

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 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.

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