Sunday, 20 July 2008 17:00

UPDATE: Body Shop owners Charged with 56 counts of fraud plus tax fraud and perjury

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced that Department of Insurance investigators assisted in developing felony insurance fraud criminal complaints against Bita Imani, the owner of Redwood-city auto repair shop Group Specialists, and Mehran Baranriz, the general manager.

The two are charged with 56 counts of presenting fraudulent claims in violation of Penal Code section 550(A)(1) and five counts of grand theft by false pretenses in violation of Penal Code Section 487(A)/532. In addition, Imani is charged with four counts of tax fraud in violation of Revenue and Taxation Code Sections 19705(A) and 19706 and Baranriz is charged with two counts of perjury in violation of Penal Code section 118.

According to the DOI, from January 2003 to March 2007, Imani and Baranriz billed 25 insurance companies related to 236 insurance claims for auto repair work that was not performed. Customers and insurance companies were told that repairs were necessary due to either rodent damage or water damage, thereby triggering "comprehensive" coverage under auto insurance policies. The investigation revealed that the rodent and water damage were staged and that the parts billed to insurance companies were not replaced and repairs were not done. The total amount of insurance fraud exceeds $1.2 million, CDI said.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge John Grandsaert issued arrest warrants for both Imani and Baranriz. On June 26, 2008, Imani and Baranriz were arrested and booked in the San Mateo County Jail.

San Mateo County District Attorney Inspector Nora Fasshauer investigated the case. The California Franchise Tax Board and the California Department of Insurance assisted in the investigation.

Original Story:

The auto body repair shop owner accused, along with her husband, of defrauding car owners and insurance companies by faking rodent damage is banned from conducting any auto-related business and must inform any future employers in the industry of the charges.

The state Attorney General’s Office sought the prohibition yesterday at a hearing for Bita Imani, 35, and her husband, Mehran Baranriz, 45. Both were ordered back to court Nov. 3 for a preliminary hearing with a two-week estimate. During that time, according to the ban, the couple cannot perform any auto repairs or be involved in any auto-related. 

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