Authorities arrested nine auto body shop owners and employees, charging them with various felony counts of insurance fraud following “Operation Scorpion,” a joint investigation by California Department of Insurance and the San Mateo County District Attorney office. The cases will be prosecuted by the San Mateo County District Attorney Office and could result in prison terms of up to five years, and/or a maximum fine of $50,000 for each suspect.
Conducted in December 2004, the undercover investigation into automobile body shop-related insurance fraud targeted 13 body repair shops within San Mateo County. Investigators reported that nine of the shops allegedly provided undercover officers with fraudulent repair estimates, and three of them instructed “customers” to further damage their auto. Investigators also said that one shop actually inflicted additional damage upon the undercover vehicle. Six of the suspects arrested are shop owners.
Those arrested include: Luis Manuel Amador of San Bruno; John Robert San Filippo, of San Mateo, owner of A & J Auto Body in South San Francisco; Gabriel Campos Guzman, of Newark; Ricki Jay Ingalsbe, of San Bruno, owner of A Touch of Class Automotive in South San Francisco; Yohannes “John” Mesfine, of Palo Alto, owner of Mesfine Auto Body and Paint in Redwood City; Don Steven Reimer, of Santa Clara; Jose Rolando Santos, of Los Banos, who was convicted of insurance fraud in 1999 and is owner of Sanchez Auto Repair in San Mateo; Cristian Velazquez, of South San Francisco; and Robert Otto Waldschmidt, of San Carlos, owner of Automotive Enterprise in San Carlos.
The estimates were for alleged accidents which were both covered and not covered by insurance. The undercover officer asked the body shop owner/estimator to combine the insured and uninsured damage in the claim submitted to the insurance company. The fraudulent estimates were $3,000 – $4000 each, with half of the estimates’ total amount going towards the uninsured damage.
Suspect body shops were identified as a result of insurance fraud-related consumer complaints to CDI and the National Insurance Crime Bureau. CDI and the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office were also assisted in the investigation by NICB, Civil Service Employees Insurance Group, and State Farm Insurance.
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