Eduardo Suarez, 38, of Bakersfield, Calif., was arraigned last week on two felony counts of insurance fraud and arson after he was arrested last month at his worksite on an outstanding warrant.
Suarez allegedly conspired with his then girlfriend, Nicole Hamen, 37, to stage a vehicle theft and arson in order to obtain an insurance payout they were not entitled to receive, the California Department of Insurance said in a news release. Attempts were made to locate and arrest Hamen on an outstanding warrant alleging similar charges, but she eluded authorities and remains at large.
A joint investigation by the California Department of Insurance, Bakersfield Fire Department Arson Division, and the Bakersfield Police Department, began in May 2021 when the Bakersfield Fire Department responded to a report of a vehicle fire. An arson investigation revealed the burned vehicle, a 2009 Mitsubishi Outlander, belonged to Hamen. When the Bakersfield Police Department contacted Hamen at her residence, she claimed her vehicle had been stolen.
Hamen subsequently filed an insurance claim and told her insurance company she did not know who stole the vehicle, did not loan the vehicle to anyone, and claimed her vehicle was in good running condition prior to the alleged theft.
The investigation uncovered videos of Hamen and Suarez removing tires, rims and miscellaneous property from the vehicle, before Suarez towed it away from Hamen’s home to the eventual burn site approximately one mile away. The vehicle was dumped and gasoline was used to set the vehicle ablaze. Authorities continue to search for Nicole Hamen.
In other California insurance news, Palmdale insurance agents Matthew Evans, 33, and Crystal Ezeb, 30, were arraigned last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, on 11 felony counts each of identity theft, grand theft, and attempted grand theft after stealing identities of other insurance agents to gain over $125,000 in unearned commissions.
The CDI began an investigation after having received complaints from two insurance companies stating that three licensed insurance agents, not including Evans or Ezeb, submitted dozens of fraudulent life insurance applications in order to obtain commission payments from the insurance companies.
The investigation revealed Evans and Ezeb, of M&C Agency Corp., stole the identities of those three agents and one other agent to submit the fraudulent insurance applications. They submitted these false applications in order to collect advanced commissions that they did not actually earn.
The department has initiated administrative actions seeking to revoke Evans and Ezeb’s insurance licenses. They are both scheduled to return to court on July 15, 2022. The case is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.