SAN DIEGO — Authorities announced Thursday the filing of felony charges against 42 people accused of obtaining auto insurance after an accident or theft, then making fraudulent claims for the loss.
A four-month investigation, dubbed “Operation Insure,” was launched after law enforcement agencies and the National Insurance Crime Bureau determined that the type of fraud in which people purchase insurance policies after accidents or staged thefts is the most common type of auto insurance fraud occurring in San Diego County.
Authorities fanned out over the county over the past two days, serving the defendants with letters informing them of the charges.
If convicted of knowingly presenting a false or fraudulent claim for the payment of loss or injury under an insurance contract, the defendants face up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
“Insurance fraud costs the insurance industry billions of dollars a year, and that cost is passed on to the consumer,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “Operation Insure is a warning to individuals considering auto insurance fraud that we’re investigating and prosecuting these cases and the penalty can be steep.”
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Insurance Fraud Division partnered with the California Department of Insurance to initiate Operation Insure. All of the investigations involve fraudulent auto insurance claims being filed against insurance companies.
Authorities said the majority of the investigations involve fraudulent auto insurance claims filed by people who have purchased a new insurance policy or re-instated an expired policy after an accident, theft or loss has occurred, in an attempt to fraudulently gain coverage from the insurance company for the loss.
At the time of the losses, the defendants did not have valid insurance coverage and they either lied or omitted information to the insurance company when purchasing or re-instating a policy and subsequently filed a false claim, according to authorities. “The crime of purchasing insurance after a loss and then lying about an accident or theft perverts the concept of insurance and forces honest consumers to pay more,” said Dennis Jay, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. “We applaud the law enforcement agencies for cracking down and sending an unmistakable public message that driving without auto coverage and trying to bilk your insurer is a dead-end street.”