(All images, information, and text courtesy of wwlp.com. Written by Tamara Sacharczyk. Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved)
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – It was the largest auto insurance scheme in western Massachusetts history.
A New York woman plead guilty to more than 100 insurance fraud charges last August for bringing up to 200 New York residents into western Massachusetts over several years for lower auto insurance rates.
She claimed to be their translator, and would bring them to get a license, car, and auto insurance rate before bringing them back to New York.
The Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts caught on, and dozens of the people involved were eventually arrested and charged.
On Monday, the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators recognized members of the Northwestern District Attorney’s office, state police troopers, and the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts for stopping the scheme, which ultimately cost the state nearly $300-thousand over several years.
They were given this year’s “Insurance Investigator of the Year” award, which recognizes an individual or group for an “outstanding contribution in the area of vehicle theft investigation or insurance fraud investigation.
Daniel Johnston, the Executive Director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts told 22News they usually don’t deal with cases as large at this one, but they do deal with other auto insurance fraud cases every year.
Johnston said auto insurance fraud is bad for the entire state, because it can cause our insurance premiums to increase. “Premiums that people pay up here are supposed to be enough to cover the claims up here, but if greater claims occur down in New York, that’s going to cause rates up to go up if those companies put them into their rate making formulas,” he said.
The Insurance Fraud Bureau works with DA’s across the state to eliminate auto insurance fraud.
Steven Gagne, First Assistant DA of the Northwestern DA’s office told 22News, fraud can range from staging your own car accidents, to fabricating a car registration. “We’ll see somebody who lives in Springfield, but they use a more rural address like Deerfield or Ashfield where insurance rates are much lower. Usually, it’s not too hard to tell where a person is actually keeping their car,” he said.
Auto insurance companies will report anything that looks suspicious to the IFB. From there, the DA can launch an investigation.
Auto insurance fraud is a felony, and carries a conviction of up to 5-years in state prison.