An anonymous tip led investigators to San Jose’s Kings Row, where detectives say a body shop owner has been leading an insurance fraud scheme since 2012.
“Very elaborate,” Deputy District Attorney Charlotte Chang said of the alleged crime. “In many of the cases, Mr. Velazquez and Deisy Robles signed up for different insurance policies, would put a certain car on, stage an accident, submit a false insurance claim with it, take it off, add another one.”
Detectives with the California Department of Insurance say Carlos Body Shop owner Juan Ortiz Velazquez, 27, and his wife Deisy Ramirez Robles, 27, paid friends and family $500 each to let them damage their cars and then collect on false claims.
The couple allegedly filed 20 fraudulent claims to four insurance companies – Progressive, Farmers, PGAC and Nations – to collect more than $140,000.
“They would also buy these policies anywhere from 5 to 30 days before the staged accidents,” Chang said. “We don’t believe these accidents actually happened, but rather it was orchestrated lies.”
The accidents ranged from fictional hit-and-runs to fake crashes on Highway 17. They often involved such luxury models as Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, and Maserati, according to Chang.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has charged six of the seven others allegedly involved, including: Jose Caro Curiel, 46, of Santa Clara; Melissa Duarte, 27, of Hollister; Filomeno Arreguin Lucatero, 45, of Milpitas; Angel Resendiz, 39 of Gilroy; and Manuel Resendiz, 40, of Los Banos. The seventh person, whose name they have not released, is still at large.
Curiel was arraigned on Wednesday, but did not enter a plea. He remains in custody because of a separate charge.
Investigators believe Lucatero’s body shop, Filo’s Auto Body, was also involved in the fraud scheme.
Velazquez faces 26 counts of felony insurance fraud alone faces 26 counts. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 31 years in prison. Robles, who faces 14 counts, faces a maximum sentence of 19 years in prison if convicted.
NBC Bay Area News spoke with Velazquez outside of his body shop, but he declined to comment before he appears in court on May 10.