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Contra Costa undercover sting brings felony insurance fraud charges in auto body repair shops bust

Four individuals have been charged as a result of the sting operation who had no known connection to one another, or to any particular insurance company

Contra Costa, Calif.—An undercover investigation targeting automobile insurance fraud across Contra Costa County led to eight felony counts against four individuals late last month. They were the result of a investigation that occurred over several days in 2019.

“This operation was part of a proactive enforcement effort to cut down on fraud,” Deputy Press Secretary Madison Voss, of the California Department of Insurance, told Aftermarket Matters. “We received information from multiple sources which led to certain shops being targeted as part of the operation.”

Kee’s Auto Body in Concord was one of four repair facilities targeted in a sting operation for automobile insurance fraud.

To crack down on automobile insurance fraud, the California Department of Insurance, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) conducted the undercover sting operation targeting auto body repair facilities throughout the county.

“The four individuals who have been charged as a result of the sting operation had no known connection to one another, or to any particular insurance company,” Voss said. She listed the suspects and companies as the following:

• Kyle Coburn, 30, of AW Collision in Concord

• Marco Hernandez, 49, of 101 Auto Body in Richmond

• Estephanie Gonzalez-Marquez, 26, of Tepa Autobody in Pittsburg

• Vu Hoang, 33, of Kee’s Auto Body in Concord

One sting operation uncovered repair shop employees allegedly providing undercover officers with written bogus documentation to give their insurance company to support fraudulent insurance claims, according to a press release. In another sting, body shop personnel coached the undercover officer on telling a phony story to the insurance company, including allegedly telling the undercover officer to lie about when and how the vehicle damage occurred.

“These suspects brazenly worked to rip off insurance companies by making bogus insurance claims,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara in the announcement. “We are tackling the issue of insurance fraud head on, and are taking proactive steps to educate the public and provide a deterrent message to those knowingly breaking the law. Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime. We all pay for the cost of fraud through higher premiums. Working with our partners at the District Attorney’s Office and the NICB will help fight this multimillion dollar problem and bring fraudsters to justice.”  

Auto insurance fraud is one of the most common types of fraud in California, with estimates in the tens of millions of dollars annually.

“Accepting business with knowledge or reckless disregard for the fact that a customer intends to commit insurance fraud is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and an additional fine of up to $50,000,” Voss said.

She added that providing false or misleading information in support of an insurance claim is a felony punishable by up to five years state prison and an additional fine of up to $50,000.

Hernandez and Gonzalez-Marquez were indicted by a Grand Jury in December 2019. Both individuals recently appeared in court for the first time. Coburn and Hoang were arrested by Department of Insurance detectives on Feb. 21. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the cases.

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