Weekly Car Insurance Crime Watch: January 31

Suspect in custodyThe 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, staged crashes take center stage in two cases in Florida and North Carolina, the former involving a mother-son duo and latter involving seven suspects, two of whom are still at large. Plus, a California attorney enters a guilty plea on dozens of felony counts for use of auto crash “cappers.”

Two in North Carolina Sought in Connection with Staged Crash Scam

The North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) issued a recent report to the public, seeking its help in finding two suspects who are at-large and linked to a staged-crash scheme entangling GEICO, Progressive and National General in western North Carolina.

Authorities said they arrested five people in connection to the scam involving fake documents and claims for “property damage caused by several staged accidents in the Asheville area” worth several thousand dollars.

Police are still trying to locate two suspects, Christina Renee Allen and Sonia Venita Clay, according to the report.

In a separate case in central North Carolina, police arrested Paisley Andrew Harvell, Jr. and charged him with two counts of insurance fraud. According to an NCDOI report, Harvell Jr. sent duplicate claims to Progressive and Direct Insurance Company for “vandalism damage” on his 2003 Chevy Trailblazer.

According to the NCDOI, a tenth of every dollar paid in North Carolina car insurance premiums goes to the payment of fraudulent claims.

Mother and Son Arrested, Charged for Staged Crash in 2009

Charges of auto insurance fraud were levied against a mother and son for a crash that authorities say was staged in 2009, according to a recent report from WPTV in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Two of the case’s co-defendants said the crash, which occurred in November 2009 in Palm Springs, Fla., was engineered by Marianela Cedeno, who they said was in one of the vehicles with her son Yonuel Cedeno.

According to the report, the next step for the participants was for them to seek “medical treatment at NY Medical” and take advantage of the fake crash claim.

Both Marianela and Yonuel were arrested and charged last week.

California Lawyer Gets 365-Day Jail Sentence for Using ‘Cappers’

A recent report from the California Department of Insurance (CDI) showed how state authorities unraveled an attorney’s scheme to illegally get at car-crash clients when they’re most “vulnerable”: right after the crash.

Sixty-year-old Walter Martinez pleaded guilty to 43 felony counts of using at least three crash victim recruiters, dubbed “cappers,” who, according to CDI Commissioner Dave Jones, “usually approach accident victims acting as an attorney with no training and give legal advice to people when they are vulnerable after a collision.”

It may seem like just business-minded stick-to-itiveness to ambulance-chase before the ambulance even gets there, but capper usage is illegal and a big part of what authorities fight against in cases of car insurance fraud.

In Martinez’s case, the Rancho Cucamonga-based lawyer wrote more than $250,000 in checks to cappers—two of whom were also sentenced—between 2009 and 2012.

Martinez was sentenced to 365 days in jail and a subsequent three years of felony probation along with a $91,000 fine.

Crash victims should be especially wary right after an accident, according to the CDI.

“If you have been approached at the scene of a collision or hospital by individuals offering to refer you to a specific attorney, chiropractor, or body shop for repairs, you should avoid sharing any information with these illegal cappers or runners,” the CDI said.


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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