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Insurance Fraud

Date: Apr 13, 2005
Contributor: Clare Malbrough

Authorities charge 6 in insurance fraud

State and local law enforcement officials arrested six people in early-morning raids on their homes in Chatham and Randolph counties Tuesday, charging them with masterminding one of the largest suspected insurance fraud rings in the state.
The suspects, some of whom are related, had filed about 480 bogus car crash claims since 1992, netting themselves as much as $2 million, officials said.

The scam began with suspects crashing into each other's vehicles and grew to include innocent drivers. The suspects would stage accidents at stop signs or in parking lots and then file injury claims with insurance companies, authorities said.

The claims ranged from $2,000 to $10,000 each, investigators said.

"This is one of the largest suspected fraud ring cases we've worked in a long time," N.C. Insurance Commissioner Jim Long said in a statement.

Investigators were tipped off by the insurance companies and by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Authorities investigated the ring for about a year before rounding up the suspects Tuesday.

Robert M. Bryant, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said the arrests "clearly demonstrate that insurance fraud is not just a 'white collar' crime." The nonprofit organization works to combat insurance fraud and vehicle theft.

Chrissy Pearson, spokeswoman with the Department of Insurance, said she did not know details about the accidents. She said all were relatively minor and she doesn't think any of the innocent drivers were injured.

Arrested were Frankie Alston of 131 Ellington Road, Siler City; Gloria Alston of 1418 Spring Ave., Siler City; Ellen Burns of 4538 Walker Mill Road, Sophia; Reynaldo Dimas Colores of 401 N. Dogwood Ave., Apt. A, Siler City; Dorothy Maria Depaz of 1809 N. Chatham Ave., Siler City; and Jose Anton Depaz of 1110 Hal Clark Road, Siler City.

The charges include obtaining property by false pretenses, conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses, and being a habitual felon. Investigators say the fraud ring may have been part of a larger illegal drug operation.

A search of court records turned up dozens of prior charges under the suspects' names, including a 2000 conviction for felony possession with intent to sell and distribute cocaine against a Frankie Alston of 113 Airport Road in Siler City. Cocaine-related charges filed in 2001 against a Dorothy Marie Depaz, of 133 Airport Road, were later dismissed.

Alston was being held in the Chatham County jail Tuesday in lieu of $50,000 bail. Dimas Colores and Anton Depaz were jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail each. The others were released on a written promise to appear in court.

More than 100 officers conducted the raid, including investigators from the N.C. Department of Insurance, the Siler City Police Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Pearson said the investigation is ongoing and additional charges could be brought later.

She said Tuesday's raid was a positive step toward the Department of Insurance's goal of preventing fraud. "Any time we have a fraudulent claim against an insurance company, it is going to cost us all in the long run," she said. "The way to keep [insurance] rates low is to prevent these things from happening."

For more information relating to "Insurance Fraud", please visit our Insurance Fraud page.

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