Fifteen Arrested in Southern California Auto Insurance Fraud Ring: $350,000 in Claims Exposed

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Quick Hits

  • Fifteen Southern California residents charged in an auto insurance fraud ring.
  • The fraudulent scheme involved holding vehicles hostage and staging collisions.
  • The investigation uncovered over $350,000 in false insurance claims

     

    By Samuel A. Lopez on May 17, 2024

    SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — In a significant breakthrough against insurance fraud, fifteen Southern California residents have been charged in an elaborate scheme that defrauded insurance companies of over $350,000. The arrests follow an extensive investigation by the Inland Empire Automobile Insurance Task Force, exposing the complex methods used by the fraudsters.

    The task force, which includes the California Department of Insurance, California Highway Patrol (CHP), San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, and the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, began its probe in November 2022. They uncovered that Rosa Isela Santistevan, a non-sworn CHP employee, was illegally selling traffic collision report face pages. These documents contained sensitive personal information of individuals involved in accidents across Southern California.

    According to authorities, Santistevan, 55, of Irvine, sold these reports to Andre Angelo Reyes, 36, of Corona, identified as the ringleader. Reyes had cultivated relationships with CHP employees by donating to various CHP events, which facilitated his access to the reports.

    Once Reyes obtained the reports, he passed them to Esmeralda Parga, 26, of Pomona. Parga, impersonating an insurance representative, contacted the accident victims to arrange towing of their vehicles to CA Collision, a repair shop owned by Anthony Gomez, 35, of Jurupa Valley. The victims were misled into believing their cars were being taken to an insurance-approved facility.

    In reality, Parga and her associates were stealing the vehicles. At CA Collision, Gomez held the cars hostage, demanding cash payments from insurance companies for their release—a scheme known as “holding vehicles hostage.” This was only one facet of the ring’s fraudulent activities.

    Staged Collisions and Further Evidence

    The investigation revealed that the ring also engaged in “collusive collisions,” where accidents were deliberately staged to file false insurance claims. During searches, investigators found a video on a defendant’s phone showing a staged crash between a BMW sedan and a Polaris Slingshot. The perpetrators then filed fraudulent claims for two separate freeway accidents.

    Legal Repercussions and Charges

    The comprehensive investigation led to charges against 15 individuals for insurance fraud, grand theft by trick, and false impersonation. These charges stem from 19 fraudulent claims totaling $353,035. Twelve suspects were apprehended on May 9, 2024.

    The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case, with the San Bernardino County Auto Theft Task Force aiding in evidence collection and execution of search and arrest warrants.

    List of Defendants

    • Andre Angelo Reyes, 36, of Corona – Booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center, bail set at $700,000.
    • Rosa Isela Santistevan, 55, of Irvine – Booked into the Orange County Jail, bail set at $700,000.
    • Esmeralda Parga, 26, of Pomona – Booked into the West Valley Detention Center, bail set at $700,000.
    • Anthony Gomez, 35, of Jurupa Valley – Booked into the West Valley Detention Center, bail set at $700,000.
    • Ezequiel Baltazar Orozco, 30, of Los Angeles – Charged but not yet in custody.
    • Antonio Terrazas Perez Jr., 19, of Los Angeles – Booked into the West Valley Detention Center, bail set at $150,000.
    • Erika Garcia, 31, of Los Angeles – Charged but not yet in custody.
    • Israel Avila Sandoval, 45, of Pomona – Booked into the West Valley Detention Center, bail set at $150,000.
    • Luis Alberto Ramirez Jr., 32, of San Bernardino – Booked into the West Valley Detention Center, bail set at $100,000.
    • Robert Arzac, 49, of West Covina – Booked into the Orange County Jail, bail set at $50,000.
    • Antonio Ramirez Perez, 44, of Los Angeles – Booked into the West Valley Detention Center, bail set at $350,000.
    • Brian Anthony Lopez, 25, of Anaheim – Charged but not yet in custody.
    • Emily Marie Boatman, 26, of Ontario – Booked into the West Valley Detention Center, bail set at $700,000.
    • Ricardo Parga Jr., 23, of Pomona – Booked into the West Valley Detention Center, bail set at $50,000.
    • Steven Anthony Alfaro, 38, of Buena Park – Charged but not yet in custody.

    As a legal analyst with over 20 years of experience in the legal industry, I have covered numerous fraud cases, but the scope and audacity of this scheme are particularly striking. “This case highlights the critical need for vigilance and cross-agency collaboration to combat sophisticated insurance fraud operations.”

    This case underscores the importance of coordinated efforts between law enforcement agencies to dismantle complex fraud rings. As the legal process unfolds, it is crucial for the public to stay informed about these developments and the broader implications for insurance fraud prevention.

    For further updates, you can follow my work at USA Herald.