Fraud Roundup

May 8, 2006

Four Riverside, Calif., residents arrested for alleged fradulent auto theft claim

Three Riverside, Calif., residents have been arrested on charges that they allegedly filed a fraudulent auto theft claim on a car that was later found in an orange grove — with a bird’s nest under the hood.

The March 1 arrests of Edward James Richardson Jr., 23, Lourdes Richardson, 45, and Carissa Lambert, 23, came after an investigation by the California Department of Insurance. An additional suspect in the case, Edward James Richardson Sr., was arrested on March 2. All four are accused of filing a fraudulent claim with Clarendon National Insurance Co.

Richardson Jr. is charged with six felonies: abandoning insured property; presenting a fraudulent insurance claim; filing a fraudulent motor vehicle claim; providing false statements in support of an insurance claim; false police report; and perjury. Lourdes Richardson, Lambert, and Richardson Sr., are each charged with providing false statements in support of the insurance claim.

The investigation disclosed that Richardson Jr. told Clarendon National Insurance Co. (under oath) that an insured 2003 Ford Expedition had been stolen from his parents’ home on Jan. 22, 2005. However, the Ford was discovered abandoned in an orange grove days prior to the alleged date of theft. It was in poor condition — in fact, a completed bird’s nest was found under the hood in the engine compartment, CDI said.

If this had been accepted as a legitimate claim, Clarendon National Insurance Co. would have paid out between $18,000 and $19,000, CDI said.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case. The suspects were booked at the Riverside County Jail. Bail was set at $50,000 for Richardson Jr. and $25,000 for the other three suspects. This case was investigated by the CDI Rancho Cucamonga regional fraud office’s Organized Automobile Fraud Activity Interdiction Program, a joint task force consisting of CDI, the California Highway Patrol and the Riverside County District Attorney’s office. Further arrests are pending.

Calif. law office manager sent to prison

A California man, who with his brother managed a law office reportedly involved in a large-scale auto insurance fraud ring, was sent to state prison and ordered to make restitution of $1.5 million, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office reported.

Deputy District Attorney Loren Naiman of the Automobile Insurance Fraud Division said Munir Sharif, 42, of Valley Village, Calif., was sentenced to four years and eight months in state prison by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell. Sharif pleaded no contest to conspiracy, insurance fraud and state tax evasion charges.

Sharif was among 18 people, including two lawyers, who were charged in the massive case that covered a multimillion-dollar fraud from 1993 to 2000. The case centered on the law office of Curtis Mitchell Shaw of Beverly Hills and Keith Darran Washington of Reseda. Both men pleaded guilty last year and have been sentenced. Shaw went to state prison; Washington to county jail and probation. Both also were ordered to make restitution.

The only defendant left in the case is Sharif’s brother, Ahmed Sharif Kahn, 42, also of Valley Village.

All other defendants — with the exception of one whose case was dismissed — have pleaded and been sentenced.

Deputy District Attorney Barry Gale said that between mid-1993 and the end of 2000, Shaw and Washington operated a law practice managed by Sharif and his brother. The office reportedly served as a clearing house for staged vehicle collisions that resulted in false billings to insurance companies.

The ring, which netted nearly $2.5 million, was investigated by the Urban Auto Fraud Task Force made up of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation, the California Department of Insurance, the California Franchise Tax Board and the California Highway Patrol.

Calif. truck driver falsifies claim

Jesus Lerma, 51, from Riverside, Calif., was arrested after an investigation by the California Department of Insurance Fraud Division revealed that it was not him, but his nephew, who was allegedly the driver of a vehicle involved in a three-car collision, according to CDI.

Lerma was arrested by the Riverside Police Department at his home March 4 on a warrant for filing a false claim and providing a false statement in support of a claim. He was booked at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside with bail set at $25,000. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case.

According to CDI investigators, on Aug. 8, 2004, Anthony Garcia was involved in an auto accident in Riverside while driving Lerma’s truck. Garcia allegedly called his uncle to the accident scene. Upon his arrival, Lerma allegedly wanted to cover up the accident since his nephew did not have a license and was not insured under Lerma’s policy.

No money was paid out to Lerma, but had this alleged fraud gone undetected, Farmers Insurance could have paid up to $15,000.

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