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Los Angeles Trio Charged With Staging Car Accidents in Alleged Insurance Fraud Ring

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California Staged or Fraudulent Car Accidents on the Rise

California Staged or Fraudulent Car Accidents on the Rise

Sep 1, 2021

Three Los Angeles men have been accused of staging multiple car accidents throughout Southern California in what’s been described as an elaborate scheme to collect money from auto insurance companies.

On Monday, District Attorney George Gascon announced charges against Eduardo Retana, 25, Ausencio Gomez, 46, and Victor Valle-Diaz, 55.

Purposefully causing automobile collisions can cause grave injuries or even death for the innocent victims of an automobile insurance scheme,” D.A. Gascon said in a public statement.

Charges against the three men are as follows:

  • Retana: 11 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of insurance fraud
  • Gomez: 10 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and nine counts of insurance fraud
  • Valle-Diaz: Eight counts of assault with a deadly weapon and four counts of insurance fraud

According to the District Attorney’s Office, the trio allegedly staged 15 car accidents on Los Angeles County freeways between January 15, 2020 and September 18, 2020. The severity of the allegedly staged motor vehicle collisions varied, with some involved victims reportedly suffering serious bodily injuries as a result of the scheme.

The purported insurance fraud ring is believed to have defrauded motor vehicle insurers out of nearly $330,000.

All three men charged in the staged car accidents are scheduled for arraignment on August 31 at Los Angeles Superior Court, San Fernando Branch.

Fox 11 reported that the car accident fraud scheme is being investigated by the California Department of Insurance.

Staged Car Accidents are ‘Big Business’

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that staged or fraudulent car accidents are “big business,” and that these types of collisions actually occur regularly. According to the NICB, staged car accidents most commonly take place:

  • In urban areas where there is a greater volume of vehicles
  • In wealthier communities because drivers there are perceived to have better insurance companies

The NICB has identified five specific schemes that drivers should be aware of, including:

  • Left Turn Drive Down: Occurs when a driver is traveling along a four-lane road preparing to make a left hand turn. As you attempt to make the turn, a driver heading in the other direction slows to a stop, waving to you to go ahead and turn. But as you move ahead to complete the turn, the driver who waved you through suddenly moves forward, blocking your entrance (commonly to a parking lot). To avoid an accident, you stop. However, another car coming down the road slams into the side of your car. Suddenly, the car blocking the entrance flees the scene – making it appear as though you are at fault for pulling into oncoming traffic. In such a case, the NICB advises that the driver and passengers of the car that crashed into you will all claim that you pulled into traffic when it wasn’t clear. Additionally, they will all claim physical injuries. As a result, a claim will be filed against your insurance company to pay the criminals (and, as the NICB notes, unless someone suspects fraud and investigates the matter further, the criminals will likely “cash in”).
  • Right Turn Drive Down: Occurs when a driver pulls up to an intersection preparing to make a right-hand turn. As you start to make the turn, another vehicle suddenly runs into the back-left side of your car. The driver and passengers of the car that crashed into you will all state that you pulled into traffic when it wasn’t clear. Additionally, as is the case with the Left Turn Drive Down, the individuals in the other car will all claim physical injuries. Seemingly at fault, a claim will be filed against your insurance company to pay the criminals. And again, as the NICB notes, unless someone suspects fraud and investigates the matter further, the criminals are likely to “cash in.”
  • Curb Drive Down: Occurs when a driver is preparing to pull away from a curb and merge into traffic. You drive ahead when traffic is clear, but suddenly a car crosses from the left lane and deliberately crashes into you. According to the NICB, the driver and passengers of the car that caused the crash will all claim you pulled into traffic when it wasn’t clear. And, again, they will all claim physical injuries. Due to this type of staged car accident, a claim is filed against your insurance company to pay the criminals and, as the NICB again confirms, unless someone suspects fraud and investigates further the criminals are likely to collect financial compensation.
  • Swoop-and-Squat on City Street: Occurs on a traditional city street and typically involves three vehicles – two driven by criminals and the third by an innocent victim. According to the NICB, this type of staged incident involves the driver of the “squat” vehicle pulling in front of the victim’s car. Next, the driver of the “swoop” vehicle pulls in front of the squat vehicle, causing the driver of the squat vehicle to hit their brakes. As a result, the victim is likely unable to react in time, and ends up rear-ending the squat vehicle. The swoop vehicle then “races off and is not seen again,” according to the NICB. The victim of the staged accident is then typically responsible for any vehicle damage and personal injury to passengers in the squat vehicle.
  • Swoop-and-Squat on Freeway or Expressway: Similar to the Street Swoop-and-Squat, four vehicles are typically involved in this particular staged car accident scheme – with three belonging to criminals. According to the NICB, this scenario usually involves the third criminal boxing in the victim so they cannot change lanes. When that vehicle is unable to move, the swoop vehicle suddenly cuts off the squat vehicle, likely causing a crash. Following the collision, the swoop and box-in cars will likely speed off, once again forcing the victim’s insurer to pay the claim.

In order to avoid becoming the victim of a staged car accident, the NCIB provides the following recommendations for drivers:

  • Avoid tailgating
  • Immediately call the police to the accident scene
  • Use the camera of your cell phone to document damage and the injuries/behavior of the occupants in the other vehicle(s)
  • Avoid “runners” and “cappers” who are individuals that may suddenly appear at an accident scene and attempt to direct you to specific doctors or attorneys
  • Be wary of physicians who may suggest you file a personal injury claim if you are not actually injured
  • Avoid tow trucks that may arrive when you haven’t called or requested such a service – according to the NCIB, these individuals are often “cappers” for body shops

Recovering Financial Compensation After a Car Accident

Recovering Financial Compensation After a Car Accident

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