Five former insurance company claims adjusters for State Farm and Allstate were arrested in Florida last week for their roles in several auto insurance fraud schemes that relied on the cooperation of vehicle owners and collision repair shops, NBC Miami reported.
The arrests stem from an investigation by the Hialeah Police Auto Theft Unit, Miami-Dade Auto Theft Task Force and National Insurance Crime Bureau that took place last year and led to the arrest of 26 people involved in an insurance fraud scheme. The fraudsters reportedly conspired with collision repair shops to make false claims, eventually cheating insurance companies out of $5 million.
Investigators said the fraud works this way: To avoid payments on financed vehicles, the vehicle owner stages a crash and takes the vehicle to a collision repair shop, where the shop causes further damage to the vehicle by tampering with the airbag so that it appears it was deployed during the crash, increasing the claim amount.
At a press conference last week for the investigation, titled "Operation Crash and Bash for Cash," State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Hialeah Police Chief Mark Overton and representatives from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Allstate and State Farm announced the arrests of Allstate employees Roman Hernandez, Eduardo Quinonez and Roy Stella, and State Farm employees Jeremazine Kirland and Julio Ravelo. All five were charged with third-degree grand theft and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Rundle said this case is the first she has seen in which employees for the insurance companies were involved in the insurance scam.
"They betrayed their employers, they betrayed their colleagues, and they betrayed the consumers of South Florida," she said. "Ultimately, all of us."
"Florida is ground zero for this activity, and we won’t tolerate it," Overton added.