Midwestern News

1HomePageMap small mw 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin

Thursday, 27 February 2014 17:57

MN Laws Said to Encourage Insurance Scammers

Insurers, prosecutors, and lawmakers from both parties argued that loose Minnesota laws encourage insurance scammers as the coalition made a case for 11 legislative measures they say will crack down on costly fraud. The proposals headed to the legislature for consideration in the upcoming session represent a rare area of partisan consensus around the Minnesota no-fault insurance laws. They were honed through a working group that drew in factions from the medical, insurance, and trial lawyer communities.

“It is not a victimless crime. Virtually everyone in the state of Minnesota pays the price for insurance fraud,” said Mark Kulda of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, who appeared at a news conference to announce the anti-fraud package.

The bills would close perceived loopholes in claims processing, information sharing, investigations, and fraud prosecutions. While the type of fraud varies, some of it involves people using minor car accidents to gain access to prescription medication they later resell. In other cases, unscrupulous contractors prey on storm victims with home-insurance claims for work never performed.

Among the proposed steps:

—Allow the Minnesota commerce commissioner to impose civil penalties for acts of fraud, which is seen as easier than obtaining criminal convictions.
—Limit access to auto accident records that can be used by schemers to solicit victims unknowingly used to perpetrate fraud.
—Give insurance companies liability protection when they exchange claims data with law enforcement that can be analyzed to spot fraud rings.

As states including New York and Florida stiffen their insurance laws, advocates of the new measures say people who engage in fraud are looking for weak spots.

Tim Lynch, government relations director at the industry-backed National Insurance Crime Bureau, said fraud schemes have migrated to Minnesota.

Terry Beswick, an auto body parts retailer, repair man, and new Clinton, IA, business owner, has established himself as an auto body mechanic in Fulton, IA, but, his newest creation, the “It’s a Life Saver” device, is something he calls his best idea yet.

Beswick said, “I spend a lot of time thinking about things that can help people and save them money, and a lot of people have told me this is the best idea I’ve had.”

The “It’s a Life Saver” device is similar in purpose to a car alarm, which is designed to alert the owner of criminal mischief to a vehicle. By taking that concept, Beswick created, essentially, an alarm for the house that is triggered by a small remote button, just like a vehicle alarm. Beswick designed it to be activated in emergency situations, including medical crisis or home intrusion scenarios in which getting to a phone to dial 911 is not easily accessible. When activated, the apparatus sounds an alarm that can be heard within approximately one block of the home, alerting neighbors that trouble is abound.

“People have car alarms, so I started thinking why don’t houses have similar alarms?” Beswick said. “This is different than a security system too because those are hundreds of dollars plus annual fees that you have to pay. This is a one time cost of US$250 plus a US$50 installation fee.”

Not only does Beswick offer the device at the one-time flat rate, he also guarantees that, if it does indeed save a life, a full refund will be rewarded to the victim.

“I figure if this thing saves your life, you’ve already had a pretty rotten day so why not put 250 bucks back in your pocket?” he added.

While the new store on the corner of South Second Street and Fourth Avenue South is designed to promote the alarm, he also obtained the active corner location to help boost activity at his Fulton-based auto body shop.

In addition to selling the device, he also will offer auto body parts for people interested in car restoration, or who just need to replace a part on their car.

“My store is mainly going to be focused on letting people know about my shop and for the do-it-yourself guys who like to fix up cars,” Beswick said.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 16:19

Couple Sentenced in Glass Embezzling Case

“We settled on a plea and she and her husband will be at least paying a little back,” says Lynette Hackworth, office manager for A2 Auto Glass based in Washtenaw County, MI. Oral and Janice Molden were sentenced to probation this month for allegedly embezzling from the automotive glass company. They have been ordered to pay a combined total of US$189,881 in fines. “We’re glad for it to be over,” said Hackworth. “It took way too long and it’s a shame this ever happened. It’s a very sad situation and cost the business a lot of money in attorneys’ fees. Our company is much healthier now and we’re glad to move on.” The couple was accused of embezzling the money over a three-year period. Janice Molden was a bookkeeper for the company and Oral Molden did computer work there. Janice Molden was sentenced to five years of probation and has been ordered to pay US$166,440 in fines, according to a report. Her husband was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay US$23,441 in fines. Plea deals in the case were reached in October 2013 with the sentencing taking place in February 2014.

Chicago, IL police say a man who allegedly tried to steal a woman’s car got a big surprise when she handed over the keys, then shut him inside her garage. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that 21-year-old Andre Bacon is charged with attempted vehicular hijacking and theft and was ordered held Sunday, February 16, 2014, in lieu of US$75,000 bail. Police say Bacon demanded that she give him the keys to her 2012 Acura MDX, which was parked in her garage. She did, but then closed the door behind her and called police.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 13:47

1Collision Network Adds 2 Stores in WI and MI

The 1Collision Network, a Midwest chain of independently-owned collision repair businesses, has announced the addition of two Wilson Auto Collision centers to its family. With these additions, 1Collision now has 19 facilities throughout Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The Wilson Auto Collision centers are owned by Kevin Wilson, who has been in business for 12 years. “I was impressed with the 1Collision value proposition, with many programs designed to enhance our success and planned business growth,” said Wilson. “I also see great value in affiliating and networking with other high-performing, successful business owners.” 1Collision Network president, Jim Keller, commented, “We are proud to welcome Kevin and his organization as our newest 1Collision partner. I first met Kevin at the MSO Symposium at NACE and knew from our first conversation that he was a high-quality business owner, serious about his business, in touch with industry trends, and thriving in the marketplace because of his successful qualities. Visiting his businesses verified the commitment Kevin and his staff have to service excellence.”

Todd Liston says that he’s fixing double the usual number of cars this year at Auto Body Specialists in Rockford, IL. “Every aspect of vehicle accidents has gone up from sliding off the road, which is definitely there. The snow banks are so high that people are not even able to see around the intersection sometimes and they pull out and get hit that way,” said Liston. Aside from car accidents, local mechanics say they’re running into another problem: finding enough car parts. State Farm Insurance reports a 20 percent jump in their car insurance claims from December 2012 to the same time last year. That includes car accidents and roadside assistance from drivers sliding off the road. “We’re seeing a lot more multiple-vehicle accidents, a lot more accidents in the ditch, and a lot more rollovers.” Gwen Brooks says she’s filing about three claims per day, compared to three claims per week last winter. Liston says that appointments at his shop are being pushed back about a month because of so many weather-related accidents. And manufacturers are running low on parts because of so many weather-related accidents.