Wednesday, 27 August 2008 07:21

Tran Sentenced in Farmers Insurance Criminal Case

Farmers Insurance announced that in a plea agreement with the San Jose District Attorney's Office in a criminal prosecution on 17 counts of insurance fraud, Gia Van Tran, owner of Tommy's Auto Body, San Jose, was sentenced to three years prison time for violation of Penal Code section 550(a)(1) (false statements in support of claim for insurance benefits).

Tran pleaded to nine (9) additional counts of P.C. 550(a)(1) violations, each carrying a maximum term of three years, which are to run concurrently with the three year sentence imposed.

Farmers Insurance Exchange and Mid Century Insurance Company sued both Tran and his body shop, along with suspected co-owner Sam Phan, in Santa Clara Superior Court, alleging violations of Insurance Code section 1871.7 and Penal Code section 550(a)(1). "We are satisfied that justice prevailed in favor of Farmers, and that Farmers' nationwide commitment to fighting fraud on all fronts has been vindicated in both the civil and criminal courts," said Doug Ashbridge, Farmers Director of Special Investigations. As recorded in the plea agreement, Tran settled Farmers' civil lawsuit on behalf of himself and the body shop, by paying $180,000. Co-defendant Sam Phan settled for $20,000.

Farmers Special Investigations Unit (SIU), after noticing unusual billing patterns, initiated an investigation and developed evidence against the defendants.

Farmers' SIU, which includes body shop experts, inspected invoices of work done on 12 vehicles and documented fraud in each invoice. "The expert inspections revealed substantial discrepancies between the invoices and the work actually performed," explained Ashbridge. "The invoices reflected billing for repairs that were not done, billing for replacements where the parts were not replaced, billing for part replacements that were only repaired and other similar billing issues. Farmers sought over $320,000 in statutory damages for the intentional actions of the defendants."

Mr. Ashbridge added: "This sentencing, along with our successful civil actions, sends a clear message to body shops that they cannot bill Farmers, accept money for the parts and services, fail to install the parts or render the services, and then simply pocket the money. This type of fraudulent activity will be exposed and punished. Farmers will persevere in its endeavors to stem the tide of insurance fraud which costs auto insurance customers billions of dollars a year nationwide."

Farmers is represented by Dennis B. Kass and Evelina M. Serafini, Manning & Marder, Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, LLP.


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