Bicycle Scam Rides Afoul of Law

Investigators with the California Department of Insurance (CDI) Criminal Investigations Branch’s Fraud Division, filed criminal charges against three Santa Rosa residents, charging them with six counts of insurance fraud and three counts of attempted grand theft.

Earl R. Small, 47, of Santa Rosa, surrendered to authorities on Jan. 3, without incident. Daniel J. Lassen, 20, was arrested by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department on Jan. 1, after contact with deputies on an unrelated matter. Bail was set at $15,000. An involved juvenile whose name is being withheld will receive a citation for his involvement.

In March 2000, Small’s son left his bicycle unattended leaning against a parked utility trailer. The owner of the trailer, William Escandon, unaware the bicycle was there hit and ran over the bicycle as he backed up the trailer. The bicycle sustained moderate damage as a result of the accident.

In April 2000, Small filed an insurance claim against Escandon’s CSAA homeowners insurance policy. CSAA advised Small to submit an estimate to repair the bicycle.

An investigation revealed that Small allegedly submitted three fraudulent and/or altered estimates in support of his insurance claim. Small submitted three replacement estimates and represented them to CSAA as repair estimates. The investigation also determined the other suspects allegedly conspired with Small to alter one of the estimates.

The estimate was allegedly altered on Lassen’s home computer to reflect additional bicycle parts and an inflated price. The actual cost to repair Small’s bicycle was approximately $2,575. Small submitted estimates in the amount of $5,867, $5,818, and $4,772. It appeared that Small attempted to defraud CSAA of between $2,197 and $3,292.