Friday, 31 December 2004 17:00

Participants in fraudulent scheme busted by DOI

Standing at the corner of 8th Street and Kingsley Drive in Koreatown in Los Angeles, Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi announced several arrests in a large "paper collision" insurance fraud ring. He also asked the community to assist in locating three members who remain at large. 

"The scheme allegedly used by these suspects is a poster child for insurance fraud - the claims are fake and the property damages are fake, but the economic losses are very real with consumers picking up the tab," said Commissioner Garamendi. "These arrests show that time and time again the Department of Insurance, working in tandem with local law enforcement and insurance industry partners, will discover the fraud and you will be prosecuted."

In October 2004, seven of ten suspects were arrested throughout the San Fernan-do Valley on numerous felony counts of insurance fraud, conspiracy, grand theft, false personation, identity theft, and money laundering related to fraudulent auto insurance claims - claims for accidents that never occurred.

The arrests were the result of an investigation by the California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division (CDI). The case was brought to the attention of CDI after two appraisers from different insurance companies found themselves at the same body shop inspecting the same car for the same date of loss. The case is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Major Fraud Division. The National Insurance Crime Bureau assisted in the case.

Those arrested were: Zarik Garabedi-an, 26, of Tujunga; Anzhela Karapetyan, 31, of Van Nuys; Gevork Keshisyan, 38, of North Hollywood; Sedrak Kocharian, 27, of North Hollywood; Tatul Kocharian, 49, of North Hollywood; Narine Mkryan, 29, of Glendale; and Alexan Zareh, 28, of Tujunga.

Three fugitives remain at large: Byoung Hwan (aka Brian) Park, 41, of Los Angeles; Tae Won Kim, 42, of Los Angeles; and Du Chul Kim, 42, of Granada Hills.

Insured multiple times

In this "paper collision" scheme, luxury and new vehicles were insured multiple times with various insurance companies, damaged intentionally and photographed so that claims could be repeatedly submitted for accidents that never occurred. Various intersections in Los Angeles, mostly in Koreatown, were favorites of this ring.

The intersection of 8th Street and Kingsley Drive was used most often by the insurance fraud ring, filing 23 fake claims for alleged accidents occurring at that one Koreatown intersection. Body shops were used to facilitate the scheme, and TNS Body Shop in Tujunga, owned and operated by the Kocharians, was utilized repeatedly by the suspects.

"These point-and-click, phantom collisions are deliberate and calculating actions that ultimately defraud all of us, not just insurance companies," added Commissioner Garamendi.

A total of 112 fraudulent claims for property damage were submitted between January 1999 and March 2002 to 26 insurance companies. These companies, ranging from Allstate to Vesta Fire Insurance Company, paid out approximately $2 million in losses that never really occurred.

One Lexus - 28 claims!

Multiple claims were made on 28 cars; a 1999 Lexus - with the same damage - was used in 28 claims over a 20-month period. Often multiple insurance policies were issued for the same vehicle. Claims were submitted to six insurance companies, for example, for the same alleged accident on December 10, 2001.

If convicted on all counts:

•Brian Park could face a maximum sentence of more than 20 years in state prison and a minimum fine of $2 million.

•Du Chul Kim could face a maximum sentence of more than 20 years in state prison and a minimum fine of $1 million.

•Tae Won Kim could face a maximum sentence of more than 15 years in state prison and minimum fine of $250,000.

•Sedrak Kocharian could face a maximum sentence of more than 20 years in state prison and minimum $1.5 million fine.

•Tatul Kocharian could face a maximum sentence of more than 20 years in state prison with a minimum $1 million fine.

•Zarik Garabedian, Anzhela Karapet-yan, Gevork Keshisyan, Narine Mkryan, and Alexan Zareh could all face a maximum sentence of five years in state prison and / or a maximum $50,000 fine.

If the public has any information on the whereabouts of Brian Park, Tae Won Kim, and/or Du Chul Kim, please contact Department of Insurance Fraud Investigator Kelly Mercer at (661) 253-7428.


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