California Man Arrested for Insurance Fraud on Top of an Apparently Legit $1M Claim

January 22, 2020

A California man is being charged with attempting to defraud his insurer of $43,000 while his $1 million property claim from one of the massive wildfires that struck the state in 2018 appears to be legitimate.

Stephen Cortopassi, 64, of Redding, Calif., self-surrendered on Jan. 17 after being charged with nine felony counts of insurance fraud for allegedly attempting to obtain an unearned insurance payout of over $43,000 following the Carr Fire – despite the validity of his $1 million for his properly insured property.

On July 27, 2018, while Cortopassi was evacuated, he was notified his residence and vehicles in Redding were all destroyed in the Carr Fire.

The Carr fire was among three massive and costly wildfires in California in 2018, including the Camp Fire, and the Woosely Fire. The Carr Fire destroyed 1,263 single family homes.

In addition to his home, Cortopassi had four vehicles and a detached garage on the property during the fire. His four vehicles were estimated to have a total value of $43,060.

The following day, on July 28, while the fire was still burning, Cortopassi reportedly spoke with his insurance broker and purchased a new policy on one of the vehicles even though that vehicle had been destroyed in the fire. He also added comprehensive coverage to the three other vehicles, which had also been destroyed and previously had only liability coverage. These new policies took effect on July 29, two days after his property was destroyed by the fire.

Cortopassi reportedly waited three weeks to file a claim on the new automobile policies with his insurer, and stated the vehicles were destroyed Aug. 9, 2018, two weeks after the actual loss.

Cortopassi received over $1 million for his properly insured property. However, his insurer notified the California Department of Insurance of the suspected fraud before paying out the additional $43,060 that Cortopassi allegedly attempted to collect.

Cortopassi self-surrendered to the Shasta County Jail. The Shasta County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting this case. Cortopassi is scheduled to appear in court on March 2.

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