Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Two Recent Auto Fraud Prosecutions In Ventura And San Bernardino Counties For Filing False Stolen Vehicle Claims With Insurance Companies

Here are two recent automobile insurance fraud cases from Ventura and San Bernardino Counties. There has been a significant increase in the prosecution of these cases. In addition, the time for investigation and prosecution of these types of cases has shortened. For example, in the Ventura County case, there was an arrest and sentence within two months of the alleged false stolen vehicle report.

Venutura County

On September 24, 2009, Jose Jesus Quiroz of Oxnard was sentenced to felony probation for a period of three years and ordered to serve 90 days in the Ventura County jail. He was also ordered to pay restitution to Infinity Insurance in the amount of $4,293. This sentence follows his guilty plea to felony auto insurance fraud.

The alleged facts in this case are as follows. On the morning of August 10, 2009, Mr. Quiroz called the Oxnard Police Department to report that his 2002 GMC Denali was stolen. Mr. Quiroz told the police he parked and locked his vehicle in front of his house the previous day, August 9, but when he came outside the following morning, the vehicle was gone. He then reported the “theft” to his insurance carrier, Infinity Insurance.

Infinity was notified by the National Insurance Crime Bureau that Mr. Quiroz's car was impounded in Mexico on August 8, 2009. When questioned by Infinity Insurance, Mr. Quiroz said he had his vehicle on August 9, 2009, and denied taking it to Mexico. Infinity then referred the case to the California Department of Insurance Fraud Division (CDI) for investigation.

Mr. Quiroz eventually confessed to CDI investigators that he had financial problems and could no longer afford his monthly car payments. A friend allegedly told him that he could “leave” his truck with people in Mexico who would get rid of it for him. Mr. Quiroz then admitted reporting the vehicle as stolen in an attempt to collect insurance money.

San Bernardino

On September 14, 2009, Gustavo Garcia of Fontana was arrested at his place of employment and charged with (1) perjury (Penal Code Section 118), (2) insurance fraud (Penal Code Section 550 (A) (1) PC) and (3) Penal Code Section 550 (B)(1).

A felony complaint is only an accusation is not evidence of guilt. Mr. Garcia as a defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is alleged that Mr. Garcia claimed someone stole his 2005 GMC Yukon from his driveway in Fontana on June 29, 2008. It was recovered on July 12, 2008, in Ontario. He allegedly claimed prior to the theft that he had a company install over $9,000 in after market electronic accessories in his vehicle, as well as new tires and rims. He produced a receipt to State Farm that stated all of the items he purchased were installed in his vehicle. Experts hired by State Farm examined his vehicle and said the items were never installed. The owner of the company that Garcia said installed the tires, rims and other electronic items stated he never put them in the vehicle and never received any money from Garcia. Bail was set at $100,000.

It is also alleged that Mr. Garcia filed a similar claim in September 2007. He reported his 2005 GMC Yukon stolen to State Farm. He had submitted a receipt to State Farm, from a company that he said installed new tires, rims and the same electronics he claimed in the theft nine months later. State Farm paid the first claim, but when Garcia made the same claim again, they began looking into both claims. State Farm denied the second claim due to the lack of cooperation by Garcia.

Attorney Commentary: First, the Ventura County case involved the person suspected of the offense speaking with investigators and ultimately confessing. This confession was most likely made without any immunity or agreement of leniency. If you are interviewed by an insurance company's Special Investigations Unity (SIU) or are asked to submit a declaration under oath, you would be well-advised to seek legal counsel. If you have legal exposure, you want to analyze whether you should make further statements in support of a problem claim.

Remember that anything you say or write is evidence that can be used to prosecute you. Do not think that by being helpful or confessing that there will not be a criminal filing. Even if the investigators tell you that if you admit the truth they will go easier on you, remember that this is not a promise binding on the government prosecutors. Also, do not make the mistake of thinking that if you hire an attorney you will "look guilty." It is better to have an attorney give you sound advise rather than to make statements or sign documents that will later be used against you.

Second, remember that the insurance companies have a database of prior claims. If there is a pattern or similar claim, that can trigger an investigation. Merely having a number of auto accidents or claims within a year can trigger an investigation. The insurance companies and government agencies share information.

Posted by Tracy Green. Any questions or comments should be directed to: Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates in Los Angeles, California. They focus their practice on the representation of professionals, individuals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and criminal proceedings. They have developed an expertise in defending insurance fraud cases over the past 20 years. The firm website is


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