Three suspects have been arrested following an 11-month investigation by the California Department of Insurance of an auto insurance fraud ring that targeted car rental and insurance companies for fraudulent automobile damage claims.
On Oct. 6, 2005, a 75-count complaint was filed and warrants were issued for the arrests of nine individuals suspected of participating in fraudulent claims. The case is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Auto Fraud Unit.
On Oct. 14, 2005, California Department of Insurance Fraud Division investigators arrested three suspects: Rod Messeca, 29, of Agoura Hills; Omer Hoffman, 29, of Woodland Hills; and Rosalyn Mohseni, 26, of San Francisco. A fourth suspect, James Trumbauer, 38, is currently in federal custody serving a sentence for unrelated crimes.
Six suspects remain at large including: Ifeanyi Michael Ojimba, 29, of Irvine; Mitchell Harrington, 39, of Encino; and four Israel nationals, who are suspected to be in Israel, including Gal Yarom, 30; Aviad Bott, 28; Alon Yaron Miller, 33; and Moshe (Sanny) Assoulin, 33, who is also a federal fugitive. A warrant for Miller’s arrest had been previously issued on March 15, 2005.
The Fraud Division investigation, known as “Operation Park & Wreck,” revealed that from 2000 to early 2002, the suspects participated in fraudulent insurance claims that were submitted to car rental and insurance companies. Under the alleged scheme, a person would rent a vehicle from a car rental company and return it a day or two later with slight damage. The renter would report that he or she had accidentally struck a parked unoccupied vehicle. Another person would then contact the car rental company as the owner of the parked unoccupied vehicle and submit a claim for property damages. The same vehicles with the same damages were used in multiple claims.
One of the vehicles, a 1997 Mercedes Benz SL600, was used in 10 claims, and various insurance companies paid more than $100,000 in settlements for alleged damages to the vehicle. The potential loss to the car rental and insurance companies is estimated at nearly $500,000. The National Insurance Crime Bureau, as well as multiple car rental and insurance companies, assisted in the investigation.
Two additional suspects, who had been previously arrested, have since pleaded guilty to insurance fraud charges: Bridget O’Shaughnessy, 33, of Tahoe City, pleaded guilty to insurance fraud charges in July 2005, and Christian King, 34, who was serving an unrelated federal sentence at the time, pleaded guilty to fraud charges in August 2005.
Bus Driver Guilty of Workers’ Comp Fraud
A Metropolitan Transportation Authori-ty (MTA) bus driver has pleaded guilty to workersÕ compensation insurance fraud after an investigation by the California Depart-ment of Insurance (CDI) Fraud Division.
Renee Terri Henderson, 40, of Marina Del Rey, Calif., was found to have submitted fraudulent claims during the investigation. She entered her plea on Oct. 21 and now faces a sentence of 90 days in jail and three years probation. She also must pay restitution of $15,245.
According to CDI investigators, Henderson filed several workers’ compensation claims with the MTA when she was employed as a bus operator. As a result of claims she filed on March 21 and March 22, 2003, Henderson received Total Temporary Disability (TTD) benefits from March 22, 2003, to Dec. 22, 2003, collecting $386.65 every week.
A criminal complaint was issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Sept. 27, 2005, and the CDI investigation revealed that around December 2000, Henderson also was employed with ING/Financial Network as a part-time clerk and in June 2003, she became a full-time employee. Henderson denied working for any other employer other than MTA.
CDI Fraud Investigators arrested Henderson on Oct. 12 on eight counts of insurance fraud. Henderson was with three counts of 1871.4(a)(1) Insurance Code; workers’ compensation misrepresentation, three counts of 550(b)(3) Penal Code; fraudulent claims and two counts of 664-118(a) Penal Code; attempted perjury leading to the arrest warrant. Bail was set at $130,000.
Honolulu Man Convicted of Auto Insurance Fraud
The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Insurance Division has reported it has successfully prosecuted a man for auto insurance fraud.
Kahala resident Roque Lindow pleaded guilty to three cases of insurance fraud and one case involving firearm charges. Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto sentenced Lindow to five years of incarceration in each of the four cases and ordered him to pay $32,029.04 in restitution and fines. The sentences will be served concurrently. The state’s request for consecutive sentencing was denied.
In one case, Lindow agreed to set fire to codefendant Travis Nishimoto’s vehicle in October 2002. The care was reported as stolen by Nishimoto, and a fraudulent insurance claim was filed. Both men have been sentenced in that case and were ordered to pay $20,204.04 in restitution to Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.
In 2003, Lindow conspired with Bane Arai to vandalize Arai’s car in September and set fire to his car in December. Arai filed claims with Progressive Insurance to receive payment for the damaged vehicle. Roque will pay a fine of $11,825, half the value of the burned vehicle.
While awaiting trial, an anonymous tip regarding Lindow was received by Crime Stoppers. This led to the fourth case, where authorities found firearms and ammunition in Lindow’s Kahala home.
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