Insurance Scam Is Over, Uncle Sam Says

FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – Seven men have been criminally charged with defrauding insurance companies of $1.2 million by staging dozens of car accidents and submitting false claims.
     A federal grand jury returned the sealed indictment for mail fraud and conspiracy on Aug. 27. It was unsealed Tuesday after four defendants were arrested.
     Arrested at their homes were Oscar Diaz Landa, 45, of San Jose; Christopher Santiago Sanchez-Becerra, 31, of Stockton; and Alfonso Apu, 47, of Modesto. Liobigildo Vargas, 45, of Turlock, was arrested at his business, Vargas Auto Body.
     Also indicted were Juan Ortiz Rivas, 38, of Ceres; Victor Hugo Soriano-Villafan, 25, of Modesto; and Juan Marquez Cadenas, 29, of Patterson.
     They staged dozens of car accidents in and around Modesto from October 2011 until August 2014, according to the indictment.
     They typically used salvaged autos and false identities to register the vehicles and insure them, then staged accidents, usually using two or three cars and damaging one side or the rear end, according to the indictment.
     They did this dozens of times and recruited people to help them, who would submit similar cover stories to insurers and used aliases and false identities and addresses. No one ever reported an accident to police or disputed an insurance payment, according to the indictment.
     Among the many insurers defrauded by the scheme were Nationwide, State Farm, Progressive, Farmers and GEICO.
     If convicted, each man faces up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine on each count.

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