Santa Clara County brothers arrested for running staged auto accident ring
News: 2017 Press Release
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Brothers Angel Topete, 36, and Joshua Topete, 34, both of San Martin were arrested on numerous felony charges for allegedly running an organized auto insurance fraud scam involving more than 20 individuals and 18 staged collisions netting conspirators $210,000 in fraudulent auto insurance claims.
"This large ring of family and friends allegedly conspired to defraud insurers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "The cost of insurance fraud is shouldered by consumers who pay higher premiums when insurers pass along their losses. Working with our task force partners is critical in combating the multi-billion dollar problem of insurance fraud."
Silicon Valley Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force investigators initially received information about the crime ring in 2015. The two-year investigation revealed the Topete brothers conspired with family, friends and associates who posed as insurance consumers and filed fraudulent claims with six different insurers for collisions that were either staged or never occurred at all.
Evidence revealed many of the claims involved salvaged vehicles,new insurance policies and variations of a name used on other similar claims. In some cases, suspects purchased insurance policies and then intentionally crashed cars into one or more vehicles owned by co-conspirators. All parties then filed fraudulent claims, which resulted in insurers paying the full value of the vehicles after it was declared a total loss.
To date, 18 of the 22 suspects have been arrested and booked. Many are due in court this week.
The Silicon Valley Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force, which is comprised of investigators from the California Department of Insurance (CDI) Fraud Division, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, and the California Highway Patrol investigates crimes involving organized automobile insurance fraud in Santa Clara County.
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- For information about hearings, please contact DDA Charlotte Chang, 408-792-2974.
- The Task Force is funded via a grant from the Organized Automobile Fraud Activity Interdiction Program. It funds the CDI Detectives along with investigators from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, and the California Highway Patrol (CHP). CDI is the lead agency for the Task Force.
- Alma Elisa Aguilar, 39, San Jose
- Blanca Arias-Guerrero, 48, San Jose
- Pedro Ozuna, 33, San Jose
- Pablo Govea-Cabrera, 27, San Jose
- Eric Harrison, 33, Gilroy
- Gregory Carl Harrison, 53, Gilroy
- Guadalupe Cardenas, 32, San Jose
- Maria Cruz, 29, San Jose
- Jairon Escobar, 44, Milpitas
- Ivan Espinoza, 31, San Jose
- Edgar Hernandez, 31, San Jose
- Nora Lopez, 41, San Jose
- Hugo Lua, 39, Hollister
- Daniel Mendoza, 57, Milpitas
- Gabriel Osuna, 24, Gridley
- Carlos Ernesto Recinos, 46, San Jose
- Angel Topete, 36, Martin
- Joshua Topete, 34, Martin
- Rafael Rangel, 35, San Jose
- Samuel Osuna, 27, San Jose
- Claudia Estrada, 22, Gridley
- Altamirano Venancio, 35, San Jose
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.