Sept. 12--FRESNO -- A Modesto man pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and admitted that he staged car accidents in a scheme to defraud insurance companies for more than $115,000, the Department of Justice announced.
Alfonso Apu, 48, conspired with six others to stage dozens of car accidents and submit false insurance claims from at least October 2011 until August 2014, acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
Charges are pending against the six 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.
According to court documents, Apu and the other defendants staged accidents with two or three vehicles that caused $5,000 to $10,000 in damage to each vehicle.
After the staged collision, the defendants submitted a cover story to an insurer that concealed the true cause of the accident. The cover story used aliases, false identities, and false addresses for the defendants, the DOJ said.
The defendants used many different vehicles in the staged collisions by using false identities to register the vehicles and obtain insurance policies. They also recruited other individuals to allow their cars to be used in a staged accident and to make false claims under their insurance policies.
According to the plea agreement, as part of the scheme, the defendants offered to repair the recruited individual's vehicle at automobile repair shops that they had access to or that were owned by co-defendants, usually performing cosmetic repair or none at all.
It allowed them to repair damaged vehicles for an amount significantly less than the payment from an insurance company. In all, Apu caused at least $115,000 in false insurance claims, the DOJ said.
The case was the product of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick R. Delahunty and Henry Z. Carbajal III are prosecuting the case.
Apu is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd on Dec. 12.
On Sept. 6, Cristopher Santiago Sanchez-Becerra, 32, of Stockton, pleaded guilty to the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 28, the DOJ said.
Apu and Sanchez-Becerra each face a up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
(c)2016 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)
Visit The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) at www.modbee.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.