CDI Fraud Division Aids Bust of 23 Individuals in Auto Theft Ring

The California Department of Insurance (CDI) reported its major role in the bust of a major auto theft ring that could potentially have generated more than $420,000 in insurance fraud.

The CDI Fraud Division was reportedly a key part of a multi-agency task force that busted a major car theft ring in La Mesa on Monday. The Department investigated and helped prevent potential insurance fraud in the case, which resulted in 23 people being indicted for a variety of offenses, including alleged car theft, drugs and weapons offenses.

The multi-agency operation, dubbed “Operation Deep Impact,” included the San Diego County Regional Auto Theft Team, the California Highway Patrol, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the La Mesa Police, El Cajon, Chula Vista, and San Diego Police Department, the San Diego County Probation office, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and the California State Parole Board.

During the operation authorities seized 16 weapons – including assault rifles – more than 40 stolen cars, and several thousand dollars worth of illegal drugs. Six children were also taken into protective custody. The operation began last July when authorities set up an undercover operation in a home in La Mesa, ostensibly to traffic in stolen vehicles. As the investigation progressed, drugs and weapons came into play, according to investigators.

The defendants will all be charged with various crimes, including auto theft, illegal possession of firearms, sale of controlled substances, and residential burglary.

The arrested include:

Ali Mustaffa, 22, Michael Farthing, 25, Tige Browning, 30, David Burge, 34, Willie Williams, 32, Joel Talmadge, 24, Justin Lowry, 26, all of El Cajon; Joshua Roggenbuck, 28, Matt Blessinger, 24, Cassandra Poster, 23, Aaron Daniel York, 31, all of Lakeside; Lorenzo Casillas, 20, of La Mesa; Tim Clevenger, 34, of Spring Valley; Michael Frey, 39, Tansy Steinhaur, 35, Cesar Murillo, 36, Daniel Zapata, 36, Jose Orozco, 35, all of San Diego; Joseph Hall, 30, of Santee; Shanna Powell, 34, of Lemon Grove; Miguel Puente, 31, Ricardo Rodriguez, 32, both of Chula Vista; and Francisco Sanchez, 22, of Ramona.