Three men accused of organizing traffic accidents to get insurance money in Southern California – Orange County Register
“What drives me crazy is that if you drive on the 405 freeway on that day that they decide to have an accident, you are putting people’s lives in danger,” Karkanen said. The allegedly staged crashes left 21 people injured, including three seriously injured, said Alex Karkanen, deputy head of the district attorney’s auto insurance fraud division, on Tuesday (August 31). The incidents occurred from January to September 2020, mainly on the several freeways in Los Angeles County. One case involved an accident in Orange County.
“They have an old car, they drive it on the freeway and they cut right in front of another vehicle,” he said. “Usually it’s commercial, sometimes not, but they’re looking for someone they think has insurance. “
Typically, the three men traveled together in the same vehicle, but not in all cases, he said. The driver cut himself in front of another vehicle and slammed the brakes to cause the accident, according to Karkanen.
A man had to escape from his burning vehicle after one of the crashes and suffered burns, Karkanen said. Another man had his leg crushed and another suffered serious back injuries as a result of the staged accidents, he said.
Some of the incidents occurred in the 405 and 101 freeway valleys, in addition to the 5 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles, Karkanen said. Some were also on highways 605 and 91.
A California Highway Patrol officer who recently received training from the California Department of Insurance on how to spot a potential staged accident noticed some of the warning signs of one of the first incidents, Karkanen said.
Charges were filed Monday against Eduardo Retana, 25, Ausencio Gomez, 46, and Victor Valle-Diaz, 55, all from Los Angeles.
The three men were accused of defrauding insurance companies in the amount of nearly $ 330,000, the state attorney’s office said.
Retana faced 11 counts of assault with a lethal weapon and 10 counts of insurance fraud; Gomez was charged with 10 counts of assault with a lethal weapon and nine counts of insurance fraud; and Valle-Diaz was charged with eight counts of assault with a lethal weapon and four counts of insurance fraud.
Staged accidents do happen quite often, but Karkanen said it was unusual for this to happen on the highway. Committing such crimes on a highway is horribly dangerous, he added.
If anyone had died from the staged accidents, Karkanen said he likely would have faced murder charges.
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