Three Yolo County residents have pleaded no contest to auto insurance fraud in separate cases in the past three weeks, according to a Yolo County District Attorney’s Office in a news release calling attention to what it described as “the second most costly white-collar crime in America.”
“Filing false insurance claims and insurance fraud have an effect on the rising cost of auto insurance for everyone,” District Attorney Jeff Reisig said in a written statement.
The DA’s Office cited insurance industry studies that show about 10 percent or more of property/casualty claims are fraudulent. Among white-collar crimes, it ranks second only to tax evasion in terms of cost, the news release said.
Among those entering no-contest pleas in the Yolo County cases was 27-year-old Shelene Hopp, who was accused of filing a false or fraudulent auto insurance claim.
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Hopp was driving her 2008 Honda Fit on Nov. 15, 2015, when she struck a 2003 Ford Expedition parked in front of a Davis home. After hitting the vehicle, Hopp parked her Honda in the area, left the scene and went home. She did not contact the owner of the Ford Expedition or report the incident to the Davis Police Department, the news release said.
When a Davis police officer contacted her about her car a few hours later, she said her Honda had been stolen and she knew nothing about it striking a vehicle. She then reported to her insurance carrier, USAA, that her Honda had been stolen and involved in a hit-and-run collision. But in a subsequent recorded phone call to USAA, she said she had been the driver of the Honda when it struck the Ford Expedition. She admitted that she had lied about the incident to Davis police as well as her insurance carrier, the news release said.
Hopp was sentenced to three years of probation and 30 days in jail, and was ordered to pay an $800 restitution fine.
The second case involved 42-year-old Macario Carrillo of Woodland, who pleaded no contest to filing a false or fraudulent auto insurance claim.
On March 18, 2016, the California Highway Patrol responded to a hit-and-run collision on Highway 16, west of County Road 98 in Woodland. When officers arrived, they found Carrillo’s abandoned Chevy pickup truck with its airbag deployed and what appeared to be white paint transferred from the vehicle that was hit. In the days following the collision, Carrillo reported to the CHP and his insurance, CSAA, that his truck had been stolen.
In interviews with the CHP, Carrillo denied that he was involved in the collision, but officers observed burn marks on his arms that were consistent with air bag deployment, the news release said. During a follow-up interview, Carrillo admitted that he was involved in the hit-and-run collision and that he had filed a false insurance claim. He is to be sentenced Aug. 10.
The third case involved another Woodland resident, 46-year-old Christopher Kelley, who also pleaded no contest to filing a false or fraudulent auto insurance claim.
On Nov. 4, 2016, Kelley’s policy with Geico Insurance was canceled, and on Nov. 9, he was involved in a collision while driving his 2016 Dodge Ram pickup in Woodland.
On Nov. 10, he obtained a new insurance policy with Progressive Insurance. Later that same day, he spoke to Kemper Insurance, the insurance carrier for the other driver in the collision, and provided a recorded statement regarding events surrounding the crash.
But on Nov. 17, Kelley reported to Progressive Insurance that he had been out of town when his truck was damaged, stating that he did not know how the damage occurred and assumed an unknown person had driven into his driveway and hit the truck, the news release said.
In April, an investigator interviewed Kelly, who admitted obtaining the policy with Progressive after the collision. He also admitted sending text messages to a friend who advised him what to tell the insurance company about how and when his truck was damaged.
Kelley was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation and ordered to pay more than $900 in restitution and fines.
The District Attorney’s Office encourages Yolo County residents who suspect someone of auto insurance fraud to call the DA’s Fraud Hot Line at 855-496-5632. Reports also can be made via email to Fraud@yoloda.org.