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Redding resident arrested for alleged insurance fraud after Carr Fire

News: 2020 Press Release

For Release: January 22, 2020
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
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Redding resident arrested for alleged insurance fraud after Carr Fire
Suspect received over $1 million for properly insured property but allegedly committed fraud to receive more

REDDING, Calif. — Stephen Cortopassi, 64, of Redding, self-surrendered on January 17, 2020, after being charged with nine felony counts of insurance fraud for allegedly attempting to obtain an unearned insurance payout of over $43,000 following the Carr Fire even though he was going to receive over $1 million for his properly insured property.  

“This alleged crime comes at the expense of wildfire survivors throughout the state,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Many wildfire survivors lost everything they owned and it is crucial the Department of Insurance works with insurers to get them on the road to recovery as quickly as possible. My department has helped to obtain millions of dollars in legitimate claims for wildfire survivors and there is no place for those who want to cheat the system for a bigger payout than they are entitled to.”

On July 27, 2018, while Cortopassi was evacuated, he was notified his residence and vehicles in Redding were all destroyed in the Carr Fire. In addition to his home, Cortopassi had four vehicles and a detached garage on the property during the fire. His four vehicles were estimated to have a total value of $43,060.

The next day, on July 28, while the fire was still burning, Cortopassi spoke with his insurance broker and purchased a new policy on one of the vehicles even though that vehicle had been destroyed in the fire. He also added comprehensive coverage to the three other vehicles, which had also been destroyed and previously had only liability coverage. These new policies took effect on July 29, two days after his property was destroyed by the fire.

Cortopassi waited three weeks to file a claim on the new automobile policies with his insurer, and stated the vehicles were destroyed August 9, 2018, two weeks after the actual loss. Cortopassi received over $1 million for his properly insured property. However, his insurer notified the Department of Insurance of the suspected fraud before paying out the additional $43,060 that Cortopassi allegedly attempted to collect.

On January 17, 2020, Stephen Cortopassi self-surrendered to the Shasta County Jail. The Shasta County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting this case. Cortopassi is scheduled to appear in court on March 2, 2020.

The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $371 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. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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