A statewide investigation into auto insurance fraud resulted in the arrest of 54 people throughout the Bay Area, the state Department of Insurance announced Wednesday.
The investigation into the allegedly fraudulent claims could have resulted in more than $250,000 in losses in the Bay Area, state insurance officials said.
Department detectives partnered with district attorney’s offices in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Solano counties and local law enforcement agencies.
Most of the cases involved uninsured or underinsured drivers who had allegedly bought or added coverage following a collision or for damage sustained, according to state insurance officials.
The alleged fraud was discovered either before the insurer paid the claim or after the fact, state insurance officials said.
The suspects allegedly filed the false claim to an insurer for an uninsured car, officials said.
Of the 50 defendants in 44 cases filed throughout the Bay Area, 22 were in Alameda County, 14 were in Santa Clara County, seven were in Contra Costa County, two were in San Francisco and one was in Solano County.
Across the state, 195 people were arrested in 22 counties that resulted in more than $75,000 in actual losses and more than $1 million is estimated in potential losses, according to officials.
A few of the cases uncovered in the investigation involved two licensed insurance professionals, a fatal collision with a pedestrian, a car used to allegedly transport drugs from Mexico and a staged collision.
“Unfortunately this type of insurance crime is surprisingly common,” state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement.
“Insurance fraud is an expensive drain on the state’s economy that totals into the billions of dollars annually in California. This is not a victimless crime. The cost of these scams is passed along to consumers through higher rates and premiums – everyone pays for insurance fraud,” Jones said.
In a statement Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said, “It is important that the public be aware that this conduct is illegal and results in felony criminal charges.”
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nonprofit based in Des Plaines, Illinois, also assisted in the investigation.