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Alleged fraud ring posed as insurance company to steal California vehicles

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Announcements | Legal
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Fifteen Southern California residents were recently charged after an investigation found they allegedly bought the personal information of people involved in motor vehicle collisions and created fraudulent insurance claims, illegally collecting more than $350,000.

An investigation by the Inland Empire Automobile Insurance Task Force discovered the large-scale organized auto insurance fraud ring was involved in multiple types of schemes including holding vehicles hostage and collusive collisions, according to a press release from the California Department of Insurance (DOI). Three other California residents were later charged for their alleged involvement.

The task force began its investigation in November 2022 after finding out a California Highway Patrol (CHP) non-sworn employee, Rosa Isela Santistevan, 55, of Irvine, was unlawfully selling traffic collision report face pages. The pages contained personal information about people involved in collisions throughout Southern California, according to the release.

The investigating task force includes the California DOI, CHP, San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, and the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

After the task force served numerous search warrants they seized more than 3,500 CHP traffic collision report face pages from the residence of Esmeralda Parga, 26, of Pomona. The task force determined Parga was connected to Santistevan through the ringleader of the operation, Andre Angelo Reyes, 36, of Corona.

The conspiracy began after Reyes befriended Santistevan and other CHP employees by donating to various CHP events and parties, the release states.

Santistevan printed and unlawfully sold thousands of traffic collision face pages to Reyes who then passed the reports on to Parga. Parga contacted the parties involved in the collision pretending to be from their insurance company and coordinated having their vehicle towed to a repair center that they misrepresented as approved by the insurer, according to the release. Unbeknownst to the victims, Parga was allegedly stealing the vehicles.

Reyes and Parga dispatched tow trucks, whose drivers cooperated in the scheme, to pick up the vehicles and tow them to CA Collision, owned by Anthony Gomez, 35, of Jurupa Valley. Once the vehicles were at CA Collision, Gomez would keep the vehicles and demand cash payment from the insurance companies to have the vehicles released.

During numerous searches, additional evidence was found that showed the alleged ring was engaged in other types of insurance fraud schemes, including collusive collisions.

One of those collisions was recorded by a defendant and discovered on their phone during a search. The video depicts the defendants intentionally crashing a BMW sedan into a Polaris Slingshot, according to the release. The defendants then claimed two separate crashes occurred on the freeway. Reyes was also involved in this scheme along with four other conspirators, the DOI said.

The investigation resulted in 15 suspects charged with insurance fraud, grand theft by trick, and false impersonation. The charges involved 19 fraudulent claims resulting in a loss of $353,035. Twelve of the 15 suspects were arrested May 9.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting this case. The San Bernardino County Auto Theft Task Force assisted in collecting evidence and executing search and arrest warrants for the case.

Reyes, Santistevan, Parga, Gomez, and one other suspect were booked into jail on bond at $700,000 each. Bond for six other suspects was set at between $50,000 and $350,000.


Featured image credit: Valerii Evlakhov/iStock

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