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Monday, 12 September 2016 22:41

Stockton Man Pleads Guilty to Staging Car Accidents

There are Hollywood movie producers and Broadway show producers. And then there’s Cristopher Santiago Sanchez-Becerra.

He has admitted to producing elaborate frauds to bilk insurance companies.

The 32-year-old Stockton man has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and admitted that he staged car accidents in a scheme to defraud insurance companies, says Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.

Mr. Sanchez-Becerra’s little production company staged dozens of car accidents and submitted false claims seeking insurance payments for the damage caused by the staged accidents, according to court documents.

It was a long running show, lasting from at least October 2011 until August 2014 and had at least six other bad actors.

In each staged accident, Mr. Sanchez-Becerra and other defendants utilized two or three vehicles and caused about $5,000 to $10,000 in damage to each vehicle. After each staged collision, the defendants submitted a similar cover story to an insurer that concealed the true cause of the accident. The cover story would commonly use aliases, false identities, and false addresses when describing the defendants. The defendants also commonly used different vehicles in the staged collisions. They were able to do this by obtaining many different vehicles and using false identities to both register the vehicles with the Department of Motor Vehicles and obtain insurance policies for the vehicles.

Commonly, the defendants would also offer to repair the recruited individual’s vehicle at automobile repair shops that Mr. Sanchez-Becerra or a co-defendant owned, usually with less-than-complete repair work, for a fee less than the payment from an insurance company.

In all, Mr. Sanchez-Becerra caused at least $210,000 in false insurance claims to be paid as a result of the conspiracy to defraud.

“Fraud schemes like the one uncovered in this case are growing at an alarming rate, and unfortunately it’s consumers who ultimately pay the price,” said Ryan Spradlin, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations-San Francisco.

“California is ground zero for auto insurance fraud,” says state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “Sanchez-Becerra's million-dollar conspiracy to rip-off insurers victimizes California consumers who end up paying for auto fraud losses through higher insurance premiums.”

Mr. Sanchez-Becerra is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd on November 28, when he will face a possible maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Charges are pending against co-defendants Juan Ortiz Rivas, 39, of Ceres; Oscar Diaz Landa, 46, of San Jose; Victor Hugo Soriano-Villafan, 26, of Modesto; Liobigildo Vargas, 46, of Turlock; Juan Marquez Cadenas, 30, of Patterson; and Alfonso Apu, 47, of Modesto. The charges against them are only allegations; they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

We would like to thank Central Valley Business Times for reprint permission.

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