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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – An investigation involving a San Diego area auto insurance fraud ring that cost a dozen insurance carriers more than $800,000 has resulted in charges against 32 defendants, the California Department of Insurance announced Friday.

According to prosecutors, members of the ring bought used and/or damaged vehicles at significantly reduced costs, then filed inflated claims or staged thefts and crashes in order to profit off insurance payouts.

Investigators determined that 45 potentially fraudulent auto insurance claims involving 56 vehicles were filed over the course of four years, according to the Department of Insurance, which said a number of the cars had their odometers “rolled back” to increase the cars’ value.

The investigation into the fraud — dubbed Operation Dealer’s Choice — was initiated following a consumer call to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

The Department of Insurance said the dozen insurance carriers victimized by the scheme are Nationwide, Stonewood, USAA, California Casualty, Allstate, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, Esurance, GEICO, Kemper, Wawanesa and AAA.

So far, four people have been sentenced in connection with the scheme, seven remain at large, and 17 were recently arraigned. Nearly all 32 defendants hail from the San Diego area.

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