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Thursday, 10 July 2014 00:00

Arizona Auto Body Shop Owner Convicted of Insurance Fraud

The owner of a Phoenix auto body shop has been convicted of fraud and forgery for ordering his employees to add additional damage to wrecked vehicles brought into his business. The owner of 1st Class Collision at 9145 N Cave Creek Rd in Phoenix was found guilty after instructing employees to intentionally damage vehicles in his shop to collect more lucrative insurance payments, the Arizona Department of Insurance said.

The Arizona Department of Insurance announced the conviction of Michael Griesa and a Maricopa County Superior Court judge placed Griesa on probation for a year, fined him $813 and ordered to pay nearly $2,000 in restitution for the two felony convictions.

The Insurance Department began investigating Griesa and his company after former employees reported the fraud to Progressive Insurance and the insurer called the department. Former employees complained that Griesa instructed them to damage vehicles already in the shop for repairs, the Department of Insurance said. Those ex-employees alerted Progressive Insurance about the activity, which they said occurred from October 2010 through April 2012. The insurer complained to the Department of Insurance, which conducted an undercover investigation.

An undercover Insurance Department investigation found evidence of the fraud, including before and after photos of vehicles that had additional damage after arriving at Griesa’s shop.

One former employee provided before and after photos that showed damage to a vehicle while at the Cave Creek Road body shop.
Griesa's attorney, Kevin Breger, did not immediately return a message from local media. A person who identified himself as Mike at 1st Class Collision said he would pass along a message to Michael Griesa.
The shop's website describes the business as a trusted body shop with a staff "trained to use effective techniques and professional tools to get great results for customers."

The body shop generally received high marks on the consumer website Yelp. One customer lauded the staff for discovering her mother's vehicle had more damage than initially thought.

"When my mother had what she thought was only a flat tire, but was really damage as she apparently hit something," Karen S. of Fullerton, CA, wrote on the consumer website.

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