UPDATE: The body shop owner named in this article was found not guilty. I have removed his name from this post. See the comments below for details.
Michelle Durand writes in the San Mateo County Daily Journal about some auto body shop owners in California who are facing jail time for insurance fraud:
A Redwood City body shop owner nabbed with nine others in an undercover auto fraud string last December will face trial for allegedly inflating an insurance repair estimate unless he agrees to a plea at the end of the state.
(name redacted), 47, has pleaded not guilty to fraud charges and is scheduled to possibly agree to a plea bargain Sept. 23, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. The offer would discount state prison, Wagstaffe said.
He and nine others were arrested in December as part of Operation Scorpion, a joint undercover sting by the state and the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office insurance fraud unit. The operation targeted 13 auto body repair shops throughout the county. Of those, nine reportedly gave fraudulent repair estimates.
In each case, investigators brought the shops a car they claimed occurred during a hit-and-run, making the damage insured. They then pointed out some damage that occurred prior to the accident and asked the auto body shop owners to include it in the insurance estimate.
The body shop owner tells the client he is doing him a favor – and now both of them are committing insurance fraud. Something that seems so innocent and can be rationalized by saying you have been paying premium for so long and never turned in a claim to get it fixed – well – is it worth jail time?