California man facing 39 felony counts of insurance fraud
Chino Valley Newspaper (CA)
A 30-year-old Chino man charged with 39 felony counts of insurance fraud and who reportedly collected tens of thousands of dollars in undeserved payouts will next appear in court on Monday, Oct. 3. Branden Heywood pleaded not guilty to 32 counts of filing false insurance claims, five counts of unlawful use of identifying information, two counts of possessing an assault weapon and one count of forgery, according to San Bernardino County court records. He was booked on $150, 000 bail.
An investigation found the suspect allegedly acted as the leader of a 'paper collision' ring to collect $80, 000 in underserved insurance payouts, according to a statement from the California Department of Insurance.
"Paper collisions" are accidents that never took place and false documents are used to commit fraud, authorities said.
The department, along with the Inland Empire Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force, said the suspect used his identities and the identities of his young children to "stage fake collisions, by submitting fictitious medical records and altered California Highway Patrol collision reports to insurance companies in order to collect insurance payouts."
The suspect used social media to recruit people to claim they were passengers in the fake collisions, authorities said. Five people from cities in the Inland Empire have been charged with insurance fraud, authorities said.
The task force consists of the California Department of Insurance, the California Highway Patrol, San Bernardino County District Attorney's office and the Riverside District Attorney's office.