San Diego task force arrests fugitive who fled the country following alleged auto insurance fraud
News: 2020 Press Release
On October 5, 2020, Zaharia Baker, 35, was sentenced to three years probation, 120 hours community service and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $23,328.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — An investigation by the California Department of Insurance’s Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force, comprised of the Department of Insurance, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and the California Highway Patrol, led to the arrest of Zaharia Bakier, 34, on three felony counts of insurance fraud after he allegedly staged an automobile collision, which resulted in a fraudulent insurance payout of $27,000.
Bakier booked a one-way ticket to Turkey, quit his job and fled the United States after the San Diego District Attorney’s Office filed charges against him in June 2019.
On January 7, 2020, investigators learned Bakier was expected to arrive in the United States via the Los Angeles International Airport. Bakier has been taken into custody and booked into jail for his outstanding arrest warrant.
“This suspect attempted to evade punishment for his alleged insurance fraud by fleeing the country, but he could not escape the reach of our investigators,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Let this case be an example of how far the Department of Insurance and our partners will go to combat auto insurance fraud that raises costs for all California drivers.”
In May 2018, investigators from the California Department of Insurance received an anonymous email reporting Bakier had staged a collision. The investigation led to Bakier’s confession that he was responsible for the collision, which caused a total loss to his vehicle. Investigators allege that he borrowed a blue pickup truck from a friend, used the pickup truck to cause damage to his vehicle, and then returned his friend’s vehicle. Bakier then reported to his insurance company his vehicle was damaged by a hit and run driver and deemed a total loss to receive $27,000 from the victim insurer.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting this case. Arraignment is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on January 16 in the San Diego Superior Court downtown.
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Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at www.insurance.ca.gov via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.