Task force dismantles organized family auto fraud crime ring
News: 2017 Press Release
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Department of Insurance detectives and investigators with the Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force today arrested seven suspects, charged an additional 22 who are self-surrendering, and are still seeking 11 more suspects for allegedly running an organized automotive insurance fraud ring that netted conspirators $560,492.
More than 230 felony charges were filed against 40 suspects in connection with crimes committed in seven auto body shops across Coach Valley. The family-run organized crime ring staged up to 40 false insurance claims receiving payouts totaling more than $560,000 from 10 different insurance companies, including some of the largest auto insurers in the nation.
"This was an elaborate conspiracy to rip off insurers to the tune of nearly a half a million dollars," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime. The cost of fraud is shouldered by consumers who pay higher premiums when insurers pass along their losses. The task force is a critical tool in combating the multi-billion dollar problem of insurance fraud."
Investigators from the Department of Insurance initially received information about the crime ring in 2014, as part of a previous bust of suspects allegedly running a similar crime ring. Investigators with the department's Urban Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force allege the owners of the seven body shops conspired with employees and family who posed as insurance consumers and filed fraudulent claims for collisions that were either staged or never occurred at all.
"Insurance fraud schemes like this one steal from our local communities in the form of higher premiums," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. "The insurance fraud perpetrated by these defendants is alleged to have caused a loss of more than $500,000; a cost that ultimately is passed on to consumers. We have to do everything that can be done to stop these criminals from defrauding the public."
Two examples of fraudulent claims filed by the conspirators included one claiming substantial bodily injury where the insurer paid over $100,000. In another, the suspects allegedly staged a collision that targeted an innocent motorist leaving her vehicle with significant damage.
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- This case is part of the Urban Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force and is being prosecuted by the Riverside District Attorney's office.
- Body shops involved: Tiger Auto; Supreme Auto Body; Diamond Auto Body; Superior Auto Body; All Valley Auto Body; Ferrari Auto Collision; and 760 Auto Collision
- List of suspects arrested:
- Issac Espinoza Villa, 30, Indio, CA
- Luz Virgen, 42, Indio, CA
- Samuel Salvador Gomez, 42, Indio, CA
- Moises Saldana Paredes, 27, Coach, CA
- Mauricio Lopez-Castro, 29, Coach, CA
- Jose Manuel Luna, 50, Palm Desert, CA
- Erika Felix, 36, Indio, CA
- Suspect photos can be viewed on CDI's Flickr site.
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.