Florida Undercover Officers Park Auto Theft Scam

Eight individuals have been apprehended in West Palm Beach, Fla. for attempting to claim more than $120,000 in auto insurance theft benefits; but, there was one hitch, they attempted to “ditch” the vehicles by selling them to undercover officers.

According to Tom Gallagher, Florida’s CFO, the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud worked with a Palm Beach County Multi-Agency Auto-Theft Task Force in making the arrests.

Ditching, also referred to as an owner give-up, occurs when the owner is unhappy with the vehicle or can no longer keep up with payments and either pays someone to get rid of the car, as these suspects are accused of doing, or gets rid of it by dumping or burning the vehicle.

DFS statistics show that since the department began its crackdown on insurance fraud, there have been more than 1,400 arrests and more than $34 million worth of vehicles and parts recovered. The objectives of the task force are to recover stolen vehicles and prevent further theft through proactive investigations. DIF investigates fraud in all lines of insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers’ compensation insurance.

The Palm Beach County Multi-Agency Auto Theft Task Force was formed in June 1997, and is comprised of the Division of Insurance Fraud, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, Riviera Beach Police Department, West Palm Beach Police Department, Boca Raton Police Department, Delray Beach Police Department, Lantana Police Department, Atlantis Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, State Attorney’s Office, National Insurance Crime Bureau, Lo Jack and Progressive Insurance. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also assisted in these recent arrests.

The arrests were made over the last few months. Members of the task force made four additional arrests for odometer fraud.

In the past fiscal year, DIF has arrested 20 south Florida residents for similar offenses. Auto insurance fraud is estimated to cost the average Florida family as much as $240 a year.