Three suspects have been arrested following an 11-month investigation by the California Department of Insurance of an auto insurance fraud ring that targeted car rental and insurance companies for fraudulent automobile damage claims.
On Oct. 6, 2005, a 75-count complaint was filed and warrants were issued for the arrests of nine individuals suspected of participating in fraudulent claims. The case is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Auto Fraud Unit.
On Oct. 14, 2005, California Department of Insurance Fraud Division investigators arrested three suspects: Rod Messeca, 29, of Agoura Hills; Omer Hoffman, 29, of Woodland Hills; and Rosalyn Mohseni, 26, of San Francisco. A fourth suspect, James Trumbauer, 38, is currently in federal custody serving a sentence for unrelated crimes.
Six suspects remain at large including: Ifeanyi Michael Ojimba, 29, of Irvine; Mitchell Harrington, 39, of Encino; and four Israel nationals who are suspected to be in Israel, including Gal Yarom, 30; Aviad Bott, 28; Alon Yaron Miller, 33; and Moshe (Sanny) Assoulin, 33, who is also a federal fugitive. A warrant for Miller’s arrest had been previously issued on March 15, 2005.
“Insurance fraud hurts all California consumers by increasing the cost of our auto insurance premiums,” said State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi. “These arrests send a clear message to anyone thinking of committing auto insurance fraud – don’t do it because you will be caught and prosecuted.”
The Fraud Division investigation, known as “Operation Park & Wreck,” revealed that from 2000 to early 2002 the suspects participated in fraudulent insurance claims that were submitted to car rental and insurance companies. Under the alleged scheme, a person would rent a vehicle from a car rental company and return it a day or two later with slight damage. The renter would report that he or she had accidentally struck a parked unoccupied vehicle. Another person would then contact the car rental company as the owner of the parked unoccupied vehicle, and submit a claim for property damages. The same vehicles with the same damages were used over and over again in multiple claims.
One of the vehicles, a 1997 Mercedes Benz SL600, was used in 10 claims, and various insurance companies paid more than $100,000 in settlements for alleged damages to the vehicle. The potential loss to the various car rental and insurance companies is estimated at nearly $500,000. The National Insurance Crime Bureau, as well as multiple car rental and insurance companies, assisted in the investigation.
Two additional suspects, who had been previously arrested, have since pleaded guilty to insurance fraud charges: Bridget O’Shaughnessy, 33, of Tahoe City, pleaded guilty to insurance fraud charges in July 2005, and Christian King, 34, who was serving an unrelated federal sentence at the time, pleaded guilty to insurance fraud charges in August 2005.
If you have any information regarding any of the individuals who are still at large please contact the California Department of Insurance Fraud Division at (661) 253-7400.
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