13 arrested in Merced County insurance fraud ring, accused of staging auto accidents

MERCED COUNTY, California - Thirteen people have been arrested for their role in an auto insurance fraud ring. 

The Merced County District Attorney's office said the auto insurance fraud ring involved 10 different insurance companies that paid out more than $430,000 in bogus claims.

Last month, a grand jury indicted 21 people for their role in staging auto accidents, vandalism and submitting bogus claims.

The district attorney's office says the scheme began in 2011 and continued through 2016, during that time 20 fraudulent claims were submitted to insurance companies for payment.

During the investigation officials discovered that some of the same vehicles were used for multiple claims, and often reported to have the same damages. According to an investigator with the Merced County District Attorney, the main method of theft came from suspects altering hospital bills that were submitted to the insurance companies. In some cases the suspects would change the payment total on  hospital bills to larger amounts so payouts would be higher.

"Not only is insurance fraud a crime, it costs Merced County residents substantially more in premiums and insurance costs every year," said District Attorney Larry Morse II. 

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