California’s Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced that a year-long investigation by California Department of Insurance detectives has resulted in eight arrests and the dismantling of a staged automobile collision ring.
“Criminals that engage in staged auto collisions seek monetary gain while risking not only their lives but also the innocent lives of other drivers on the road,” Commissioner Poizner said in a press statement.
The group involved caused more than $200,000 in damages, he added.
The suspects were arrested throughout San Diego County for their alleged roles in staging violent automobile collisions in order to fraudulently collect money from insurance carriers. More than 83 felony counts of insurance fraud have been filed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
Twenty-eight counts were filed against the alleged ring leader, Jay Stoney Anderson, 31, of Chula Vista, for his alleged involvement in at least seven staged collisions. If convicted, Anderson could face up to 11 years in prison. Anderson is already in custody for a probation violation, CDI detectives said.
In each collision, the vehicle that caused the collision, commonly referred to as the “hammer” vehicle, was abandoned at the scene prior to police arrival. Follow-up investigation revealed that the hammer vehicles had either been abandoned by their registered owners or reported as stolen prior to the collision.
For each collision, the passengers in the other involved vehicle, referred to as the “nail” vehicle, claimed soft tissue injuries and sought treatment at a local hospital. These passengers later filed personal injury claims with the insurer. When the insurance company settled the claims, the payment checks were sent directly to the “injured” passengers who allegedly left outstanding hospital bills.
In one particular staged collision, the backpack of an occupant of the nail vehicle was found by police in the hammer vehicle of the same collision, which had been abandoned at the scene. Numerous connections between the owners of the hammer vehicle to the occupants of the nail vehicles were found throughout the investigation. The investigation also revealed numerous connections between participants of each collision and Anderson.
To date, seven insurance carriers have paid out more than $200,000 to suspects involved in these 11 staged collisions.
California Department of Insurance Detective Matthew Barnes led the Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force team in this investigation. The San Diego AIFTF is comprised of detectives from the Department of Insurance, investigators from the California Highway Patrol, San Diego District Attorney’s office and a National Insurance Crime Bureau special agent.
This is an ongoing investigation and additional charges may by filed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office in the future. The case is being prosecuted by San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Victor Ou.
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