Weekly Car Insurance Crime Watch: January 10

Silver handcuff and dollar bank notesThe news doesn’t stop, because crime never does either.

With the deluge of crime stories that Online Auto Insurance News (OAIN) sees every day relating to car coverage, here is a roundup of this week’s biggest headline-grabbing yarns.

And it certainly is a deluge. This week, a couple stories about fakeness: supposed Michigan auto insurance policies sold to drivers turn out to be bogus and Facebook eventually outing a family-related sham crash. Plus, Texas authorities tack on an extra charge of insurance fraud in a drug investigation.

Michigan Regulators Say Man Sold Fake Auto Policies

Attention, any Michigan motorists who bought an auto policy from James Carnaghi: You may have been had.

Michigan regulators announced the suspension of Carnaghi’s license this week, stemming from an investigation that revealed he had “collected premiums from at least 20 Michigan drivers” while furnishing them with bogus policies.

Regulatory investigators were tipped to Carnaghi by the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Department, which oversees a county that includes Imlay City, Mich., and Lapeer, Mich.

The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) said in its advisory that, “consumers who have purchased insurance from Carnaghi should contact their insurance company to ensure that they have valid insurance coverage.”

The consumer hotline at DIFS is toll-free at 877-999-6442

Facebook Family Tree Downs Staged U-Haul Crash in Calif.

A quartet in Sacramento County decided to keep a con all in the family.

In 2011, Kristel Marquez crashed a rented U-Haul truck into a car driven by Susan Lee. In Lee’s vehicle was Angelique Jones and Angela Medeiros. All four ultimately filed bodily injury claims that triggered an investigation that—thanks to social media—unraveled the scam.

In the ensuing insurance investigation, Medeiros “denied knowing any of the occupants in the car and all of the occupants denied knowing Medeiros,” according to a release from Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully.

Investigators from the California Department of Insurance uncovered information that proved otherwise. Familial relations in “Facebook listings” revealed that Medeiros was mother to Jones and mother-in-law to Lee and Marquez.

All pleaded guilty to felony violation of insurance fraud and were sentenced to time in county jail, according to the release.

Car Device Stirs Texas Man’s Unease, Leads to Insurance Fraud Charge

Any in-car device can trigger a fear of being tracked (who wants their grocery store trips to end up with their mailbox stuffed with more Albertsons ads?).

But not all in-car devices are for the purposes of usage-based insurance.

Sergio Zapata guessed that the device he found while wrecking his own truck wasn’t from his insurer—and he guessed right.

After inspecting the wreckage, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Zapata “discovered an electronic device he didn’t recognize” that was actually a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) “tracking unit” installed by investigators on the trail of organized crime.

The DPS device was an integral part of a drug-ring investigation that netted dozens of arrests, including Zapata, whose solution to discovering the device was simple: Cancel the truck’s coverage then sell it.

When selling the truck fell short, Zapata turned to the next simplest solution: Restore the truck’s coverage, then torch it.

The insurer ended up paying a claim amounting to $17,000 for the truck burn-out.

In the end, fraud and arson charges were tacked onto DPS’ charges against Zapata related to firearms and organized crime.


About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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