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Press Release

Modesto Man Pleads Guilty to Staging Car Accidents in a Scheme to Defraud Insurance Companies

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Alfonso Apu, 48, of Modesto, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and admitted that he staged car accidents in a scheme to defraud insurance companies, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, from at least October 2011 until August 2014, Apu conspired with at least six other individuals to stage dozens of car accidents and submit false claims to insurance companies seeking compensation. Apu and other defendants staged accidents with two or three vehicles that caused $5,000 to $10,000 in damage to each vehicle. After the staged collision, the defendants submitted a cover story to an insurer that concealed the true cause of the accident. The cover story used aliases, false identities, and false addresses for the defendants. The defendants used many different vehicles in the staged collisions by using false identities to register the vehicles and obtain insurance policies. They also recruited other individuals to allow their cars to be used in a staged accident and to make false claims under their insurance policies.

According to the plea agreement, as part of the scheme, the defendants offered to repair the recruited individual’s vehicle at automobile repair shops that they had access to or that were owned by co-defendants, usually performing cosmetic repair or none at all. It allowed them to repair damaged vehicles for an amount significantly less than the payment from an insurance company. In all, Apu caused at least $115,000 in false insurance claims.

This case is the product of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick R. Delahunty and Henry Z. Carbajal III are prosecuting the case.

Apu is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd on December 12, 2016. On September 6, 2016, Cristopher Santiago Sanchez-Becerra, 32, of Stockton, pleaded guilty to the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 28, 2016. Apu and Sanchez-Becerra each face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Charges are pending against co-defendants Juan Ortiz Rivas, 39, of Ceres; Oscar Diaz Landa, 46, of San Jose; Victor Hugo Soriano-Villafan, 26, of Modesto; Liobigildo Vargas, 46, of Turlock; Juan Marquez Cadenas, 30, of Patterson. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated September 12, 2016

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 1:15-cr-233 DAD