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Three Chiropractors Among 14
Arrested for Staged Accident Scheme

In June 1998, Charles G. LaBella, United States Attorney Southern District of California; William D. Gore, Special Agent in Charge, San Diego Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Chuck Quackenbush, Insurance Commissioner, California Department of Insurance; announced the culmination of a three-year investigation code-named "Twisted Metal." Eleven individuals in San Diego and 3 individuals in the Los Angeles area were arrested:

The California Department of Insurance and the FBI, in partnership with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the San Diego Police Department, have successfully penetrated a large-scale staged auto accident ring operating out of San Diego. Evidence has been gathered throughout the State of California regarding 11 staged automobile accidents.

Background History

Insurance premiums are higher than they would otherwise be as a result of unscrupulous healthcare providers, personal injury attorneys, and other individuals who participate in schemes to defraud insurance companies by staging fraudulent automobile accidents. The Chicago-based National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that property/casualty insurance fraud cost U.S. insurance companies and ultimately those who pay the premiums a total of $20 billion a year. A substantial portion of this amount is from staged automobile accident schemes. The biggest beneficiaries of this illegal business are dishonest attorneys, medical professionals, and "cappers." The cooperating passengers also receive a portion of the illegal proceeds. NICB further estimates that all forms of insurance fraud cost the U.S. insurance industry between $30 billion and $50 billion a year. The average homeowner will pay an extra $200 per year, and an extra $100 per year for each vehicle owned, as a result of insurance fraud.

Since 1995, the California Department of Insurance (CDI) Fraud Division, the FBI, the San Diego Police Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) have worked jointly on an undercover scenario to penetrate an organization involved in staging automobile collisions. The primary undercover agent was a California Department of Insurance investigator. Others were from the San Diego Police Department, the California Department of Health Services, the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, as well as other Department of Insurance investigators.

The undercover agents worked closely with the subjects of the investigation who planned and executed 11 staged accidents and two staged auto thefts. The subjects were tape-recorded describing the manner in which they staged the collisions, how the scheme was conducted with the participating attorneys and doctors, and how the participants divided the proceeds. During the the investigation, over 500 undercover contacts were made in a 22-month period. Over 40 separate fraudulent claims were made to private insurance carriers based on the 11 staged collisions.

On May 13, 1998, 14 subjects were indicted in the Southern District of California (San Diego). The subjects included "cappers," attorneys, administrators, chiropractors and "stuffed passengers". These defendants were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and up to 27 counts of mail fraud and aiding and abetting.

On June 23, 1998, the California Department of Insurance, the FBI, the San Diego Police Department and members of the Regional Auto Theft Task Force (RATT) executed search warrants on nine locations, seven of which were in San Diego and two of which were in the Los Angeles area. Arrest warrants for 14 individuals were also executed, 11 in San Diego and three in Los Angeles. In all, over 150 federal and state agents were involved in the searches and arrests conducted on June 23, 1998.


Law Enforcement Participants

Private Industry Participants

For Further Information

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This article was posted on August 23, 1999.