California busts ‘family and friend’ organized auto insurance fraud ring

Nearly two dozen individuals face charges

California busts ‘family and friend’ organized auto insurance fraud ring

Insurance News

By Gia Snape

California’s Urban Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force has thwarted an alleged organized insurance fraud ring involving nearly two dozen individuals.

The alleged ringleader, Gerson Castro Martine of San Jose, supposedly involved family and friends in a fraud scheme that netted defendants more than $174,000, a press release by the California Department of Insurance stated.

Castro was arrested on July 29 on eight felony counts. Earlier this week, seven individuals were arrested in connection with the case. In total, 23 individuals face felony counts of insurance fraud and conspiracy.

What did the California auto insurance fraud ring involve?

An investigation uncovered 33 claims that contained a similar modus operandi, according to the insurance department.

Repeat damage claims were allegedly made by the group on insurance policies purchased either with fictitious identities, or involved parties that knew each other but reported claims as though they were strangers and had been involved in a loss.

The ring used at least 40 different vehicles, the department claimed. Some were purchased with damages on them, while others sustained damage in staged collisions.

The group supposedly ran the scheme for four years.

‘Inconsistent damages’ found in insurance claims

Detectives said the fraud was uncovered when Rene Murillo Hernandez of Santa Clara claimed to have hit a parked vehicle after his vehicle was struck by an unknown driver.

Murillo left a note with his insurance information on the parked vehicle he struck. The owner of the parked vehicle, another alleged member of the fraud ring, then turned in a claim to the insurance company.

But an investigation revealed the damages were inconsistent with the two vehicles colliding with each other.

Furthermore, the damages allegedly sustained in this incident were previously reported in a prior loss under different ownership, according to the insurance department.

The PO Box address that was being used was used in several similar claims by other individuals was the address where their vehicles were housed.

The claims were investigated by the Urban Automobile Insurance Fraud Task Force, which consists of the California Department of Insurance, Santa Clara County District Attorney Investigators, the California Highway Patrol, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

"This alleged auto insurance fraud ring is a prime example of the type of fraud that increases premium prices for all California drivers,” said California insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara. 

"The hard work of our multi-agency task force stopped this organized insurance crime ring that operated for years stealing more than $174,000 in fraudulent auto claims.”

The insurance department’s press release named the individuals involved in the operation on Tuesday, August 15:

  • Mario Trochez Martinez, 29
  • Exar Menocal Ruiz, 28
  • Rene Murillo Hernandez, 43
  • Yelson Martinez Rodriguez, 31
  • Bairon Castro Martinez, 30
  • Gerardo Murillo Zuniga, 34
  • Jose Castro Martinez, 27
  • Sirian Sanchez Andrede, 30, was cited and released
  • Eric Orlando Martinez Rodriguez, 33, self-surrendered

Other individuals that have self-surrendered or been arrested include:

  • Josselyn Gabriela Zavala, 27, self-surrendered August 16
  • Shenyer Cruz Eliezer Cruz Adams, 29, was arrested by Milpitas Police August 14, 2023
  • Gerson Castro Martinez, 34, was arrested July 2

The following individuals previously self-surrendered:

  • Manuel Allala Amezcua, 40
  • Dulmy Rodriguez Martinez, 31

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