A five-month-long sting operation in Orange County has resulted in 53 auto body repair workers, including 24 repair shop owners, being charged with insurance fraud. According to an OC Register article, “Operation Straight Body” was geared towards discovering automobile repair shops engaging in fraudulent insurance practices. Every arrested body shop worker and/or owner has been charged with one felony count of insurance fraud in Orange County.
While government officials state that the auto body shop sting operation in Orange County will help prevent taxpayers from paying hefty sums for fraud through higher insurance rates, many of the arrested individuals and some of their employers are skeptical about the procedures and legalities of the operation.
The sting operation revolved around Orange County District Attorney investigators pretending to be body shop customers. The undercover investigators apparently asked shop workers if they could repair new damage to a car in addition to damage sustained before the car was purchased – all under the same insurance estimate. Since insurance claims are not allowed to be filed for old damage, acquired before a policy has been issued, the body shop owners and employees who allegedly agreed to an undercover investigator’s request were arrested. However, they may be innocent. The actual wording used by the undercover investigator is extremely important. If all of the damage was to be paid by the alleged owner of the car or if the claim were to be paid by an insurance company allegedly for only one traffic collision, and if any misrepresentations were made by the investigator, this could cause all charges to be dismissed.
White collar criminal charges involving insurance fraud and “False Bids for Repair,” such as under Insurance Code section 557, should not be taken lightly. These types of criminal insurance fraud cases are extremely complex, especially when arrests are made through sting operations and other undercover measures.
Our skilled Orange County criminal defense lawyers with prior experience handling insurance fraud cases and arrests based on sting operations, will conduct a thorough and extensive investigation to ensure that an arrested individuals’ Constitutional rights have not been violated. If you or someone you know has been affected by the recent Orange County auto body shop sting operation, please contact Sitkoff & Hanrahan. Our aggressive defense attorneys will protect your rights and help you obtain the best resolution possible. Call 866-430-8383 for a free and confidential consultation today.