California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced the arrests of three San Jose men — Trung Minh Le, Ralph Abel Alvarez and Michael Joseph Derrick — for presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim. Le self-surrendered to authorities on March 26, 2009. Derrick was arrested on April 17, 2009 at the Santa Clara County Adult Probation Office, where he was on probation for unrelated charges. Alvarez self-surrendered to authorities on April 18, 2009.
The arrests were the result of an investigation by the Silicon Valley Urban Auto Fraud Task Force, which is comprised of the California Department of Insurance’s Enforcement Branch (CDI), the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and the California Highway Patrol.
The case is being prosecuted by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. If convicted, each subject could face up to five years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines for each count.
In May 2008, Le allegedly conspired with Alvarez and Derrick to have Derrick steal Le’s BMW. According to the investigation, Alvarez informed Derrick where to find the BMW, and Derrick “stole” the vehicle. Le then falsely reported the vehicle stolen to San Jose Police Department.
Approximately two months later, however, Derrick was spotted driving the “stolen” BMW. After a short pursuit, Derrick was apprehended in the basement of Alvarez’s residence.
Derrick made statements that he was paid to steal the BMW; Le later confessed to investigators that he fraudulently reported his vehicle stolen so he could simultaneously get rid of the car and collect on his insurance policy with California State Automobile Association. This is commonly known as an “owner give-up.” It is alleged that Alvarez and Derrick aided and abided, participated and helped stage the theft of the BMW knowing Le’s intentions were to collect on his insurance policy.
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