REDWOOD CITY, CA --- A married couple managing an auto repair shop in Northern California have pleaded not guilty to felony charges that they swindled customers by faking car damage and charging for fake repairs.
According to the Bay Area News Group, Mehran Baranriz, 45, and Bita Imani, 35, of Group Specialist in Redwood City have been accused of stuffing dead mice into the engine components of their customers' BMW and Mercedes vehicles. Prosecutors said the couple would file false rodent damage claims to insurance companies and pretend to replace parts.
The couple allegedly relied on the rodent scheme and other fraudulent practices to file $1.2 million worth of false insurance claims between January 2003 and March 2007, prosecutors said. Police arrested the couple on June 25. They each face 56 felony counts of filing false insurance claims and five felony counts of grand theft. Imani also faces four counts of tax fraud, and Baranriz faces two counts of perjury.
The criminal investigation of the couple was prompted by a complaint filed by State Farm Insurance's audit department. The investigation by the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office spanned two years, Bay Area News Group reported.