A long-running investigation into a San Diego-area auto insurance fraud ring involving staged collisions and thefts has resulted in charges against 32 defendants and uncovered $822,000 in losses, state officials said Friday.
The fraud involved going to car auctions, buying banged-up, high-mileage vehicles on the cheap, getting them insured and then filing inflated claims for damage or thefts, according to the California Department of Insurance.
Officials said they have found as many as fraudulent 45 claims involving 56 vehicle tied to the ring over the last four years.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Dealer's Choice, led to 10 people charged in December 2019.
Operation Dealer's Choice has now expanded to 32 defendants who are accused as members of the ring and are facing insurance fraud-related charges. Most of the defendants are residents of San Diego, but some come from other cities in the region from Imperial Beach to Vista. Three are from other states, and two live in Tijuana.
Thus far, 17 people have been arraigned in Superior Court, state insurance officials said. Four have already been sentenced, including a San Diego man who got five years in prison and was ordered to pay $140,000 in restitution.
Seven defendants are fugitives.
Officials said 12 insurance companies were victimized by the scheme.
State officials said the San Diego County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the cases.
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.
©2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit sandiegouniontribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.