Calif. Sting Investigation Targets Body Shops
SANTA ANA, CA - The Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) in California said it has charged 53 defendants following a five-month undercover sting targeting auto body repair facilities engaging in insurance fraud.
Between January and May of this year, the OCDA conducted 152 undercover operations throughout Orange County. The targets for this operation were identified through the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), which provided the OCDA with a list of 141 auto body repair facilities that have had consumer complaints within the past three years. The additional targets were identified through referrals by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and independent auto repair facilities that were not registered with the BAR.
Investigators arrested the defendants on felony insurance fraud charges on June 2 and June 3. The defendants have each been charged with one felony count of insurance fraud and face maximum sentences of five years in state prison if convicted.
For the investigation, the OCDA obtained a 2001 Ford Expedition that had been totaled by an insurance company after sustaining rear-end damage in a collision. The rear bumper was completely missing and the rear frame rails were bent. After the primary collision, the Ford was backed into a telephone pole, causing an indentation in the rear hatch.
An undercover OCDA investigator went to auto body repair facilities with the Ford and asked for an estimate to repair the damage. The undercover investigator explained that he had purchased the vehicle without a bumper. Upon inspection, the estimators would inform the undercover investigator that the vehicle also had frame damage. The investigator would ask if both the bumper and frame damage could be repaired under the same insurance claim, even though the bumper was missing at the time of purchase.