Breaking open a massive international car-theft ring has earned Pamela Stiefel, a San Antonio-based investigator with The Hartford, the Investigator of the Year Award from the International Association of Special Investigation Units (IASIU).
A single suspicious claim of a stolen Dodge pickup truck in San Antonio led Stiefel to a large ring that was bilking insurers for millions, according to a multimedia presentation that introduced the award winner.
‘The initial investigation found that the claimant was behind on his truck payments, and that he had responded to a newspaper ad promising to help sell his car for a small commission. After a brief meeting with the sales agent, the claimant handed over his car in exchange for six hundred dollars…and the promise of more money pending its sale,” according to the presentation.
‘After months of ignored calls, the truck owner realized his vehicle — and money — were long gone. He filed a theft claim with his insurer. Stiefel began looking into the claim and observed a strange pattern: one person had retitled 10 vehicles in his name — including the claimant’s car — and the titles were issued all about the same time,” the presentation explained.
More than one hundred vehicles were identified as part of the title-washing scam. Many were being exported to Mexico, Lebanon and other foreign countries. Investigators met with the FBI to help plot a sting operation that lead to the indictment of 19 people and the discovery of 800 fraudulently titled cars.
Stiefel’s investigation also helped to spur legislation to close loopholes that had allowed these types of scams to thrive, IASIU President David J. Rioux said during the presentation.
Source: International Association of Special Investigation Units
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