Seven Arrested in Calif. for Automobile Arson, Fraud Scams

April 21, 2008

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced the arrests of seven individuals for their alleged involvement in automobile arson and insurance fraud. The arrests are the result of two automobile “give-up” investigations.

Helen Marler, 28, and her husband Jason Marler, 33, both of Plumas Lake, and Agustin Lara, 33, of Olivehurst, were arrested on April 16. The Marlers were each charged with two felonies. Lara was charged with one felony. A second investigation resulted in the April 15 arrests of Anthony Woodcock Jr., 19; Frank Avery, 22; Kyle Cooper, 19; and Jarred Flory, 20, all of Rancho Cordova. Each of these men were charged with two felonies and booked into the Sacramento County jail.

“Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime,” said Commissioner Poizner. “Every Californian pays the equivalent of a $500 tax per year because of insurance fraud. Criminals beware: purposely destroying your vehicle will not result in a paycheck – it will result in jail time.”

Through the course of first investigation, California Department of Insurance (CDI) investigators discovered that Helen Marler purportedly conspired with her coworker, Agustin Lara, to set fire to Marler’s 2006 Jeep Liberty. The vehicle was recovered by California Highway Patrol officers on August 19, 2007 in Marysville. Marler and Lara admitted to investigators that they set fire to the vehicle so that Marler could avoid her $600 monthly car payments.

The investigation also revealed that Jason Marler filed a separate insurance claim with Farmers Insurance Company for the couple’s second vehicle, a 2005 Nissan Titan. Mr. Marler claimed that on November 12, 2007, his vehicle incurred severe water damage in the Feather River while he was four-wheeling. As a result of the damages, Farmers Insurance paid $29,000 to Mr. Marler. Investigators subsequently discovered that Marler allegedly damaged his vehicle in the river deliberately, and attempted to file a claim to collect money for water damage. Lara and Mr. and Mrs. Marler each face up to five years in state prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

The second investigation revealed that four individuals were purportedly involved in the torching of a 2006 Dodge Magnum. On October 11, 2007, Anthony Woodcock, Jr. allegedly sought the assistance of Avery, Cooper and Flory to carry out his scheme to defraud his insurance company. Woodcock filed an insurance claim with Anchor General Insurance Company for his vehicle, and received $29,000 for the damages incurred. The investigation resulted in the confessions of all four men for assisting in the destruction of the vehicle. Each could face up to five years in state prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting both cases.

Source: CDI

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