Seven charged with more than 100 counts of auto insurance fraud
News: 2015 Press Release
MARTINEZ, Calif. - Detectives from the California Department of Insurance, assisted by Snohomish County Marshall's Office and federal officers, arrested seven people in California and Washington yesterday for allegedly conspiring to defraud eight insurance companies by submitting fraudulent auto insurance claims totaling more than $175,000.
Ismael Chavez, 32, of Vallejo; Juan Carlos Chavez, 36, of Hayward; Jose Luis Ramos-Mercado, 37, of Martinez; Maria Ortiz, 29, of Oakland; Jose Guadalupe Ramos, 50, of Pittsburg, CA and two co-conspirators from Washington, Joel Palestino, 27, and Carmen Vazquez, 39, both of Everett, WA are all facing more than 100 criminal counts of felony insurance fraud.
According to detectives, the suspects were involved in an organized auto insurance fraud ring, submitting more than 70 fraudulent claims to multiple insurance companies for damage to vehicles that occurred prior to the vehicle being insured. The suspects allegedly used multiple aliases on the insurance claims to avoid detection by insurers. The investigation also revealed Mirage AutoCraft, owned by Jose Guadalupe Ramos, inspected the vehicles and was also involved in the conspiracy.
Contra Costa District Attorney Inspectors, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the National Insurance Crime Bureau assisted with the investigation. If convicted on all counts, the suspects face from 5 to 35 years in state prison. Suspects arrested in Washington are being extradited to California for prosecution. The Contra Costa District Attorney's office is prosecuting this case.
- Joel Palestino's booking photo.
- Carmen Vazquez' booking photo.
- Ismael Chavez' booking photo.
- Juan Carlos Chavez' booking photo.
- Jose Luis Ramos-Mercado's booking photo.
- Jose Guadalupe Ramos' booking photo.
- Maria Del Rosario Ortiz-Malo's booking photo.
- Suspects Joel Palestino (bail set at $770,000) and Carmen Vazquez (bail set at $330,000) were booked into the Snohomish County Jail in Washington.
- Suspects Ismael Chavez (bail set $590,000), Jose Luis Ramos-Mercado (bail set at $270,000), Maria Ortiz ($250,000), and Jose Guadalupe Ramos (bail set at $40,000) were all booked into the Martinez Detention Facility in Martinez, CA;and Juan Carlos Chavez (bail set at $20,000) was booked into the Santa Rita Jail in Pleasanton, CA.
- Victim insurers included Farmers, Progressive, State Farm, Loya, Sentry, National General and IDS Property and Casualty.
- Indictments came after a week-long Grand Jury.
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $289 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 $394 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP or 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.