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CA Department of Insurance

Santa Clara County brothers arrested for running staged auto accident ring

News: 2017 Press Release

For Release: December 4, 2017
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
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Santa Clara County brothers arrested for running staged auto accident ring
20 suspects, 18 staged crashes, over $200,000 and 81 felony counts

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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Media Notes:

  • 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.
    1. Alma Elisa Aguilar, 39, San Jose
    2. Blanca Arias-Guerrero, 48, San Jose
    3. Pedro Ozuna, 33, San Jose
    4. Pablo Govea-Cabrera, 27, San Jose
    5. Eric Harrison, 33, Gilroy
    6. Gregory Carl Harrison, 53, Gilroy
    7. Guadalupe Cardenas, 32, San Jose
    8. Maria Cruz, 29, San Jose
    9. Jairon Escobar, 44, Milpitas
    10. Ivan Espinoza, 31, San Jose
    11. Edgar Hernandez, 31, San Jose
    12. Nora Lopez, 41, San Jose
    13. Hugo Lua, 39, Hollister
    14. Daniel Mendoza, 57, Milpitas
    15. Gabriel Osuna, 24, Gridley
    16. Carlos Ernesto Recinos, 46, San Jose
    17. Angel Topete, 36, Martin
    18. Joshua Topete, 34, Martin
    19. Rafael Rangel, 35, San Jose
    20. Samuel Osuna, 27, San Jose
    21. Claudia Estrada, 22, Gridley
    22. 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 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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