Stockton Man Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison for Staging Car Accidents in a Scheme to Defraud Insurance Companies
FRESNO, Calif. — Cristopher Santiago Sanchez-Becerra, 32, of Stockton, was sentenced today to 21 months in prison in connection with his role in a conspiracy to stage car accidents in order to defraud insurance companies, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, from October 2011 until August 2014, Sanchez-Becerra conspired with at least six other individuals to stage dozens of car accidents and submit false claims seeking compensation for the damage caused by the staged accidents. As part of the scheme, the defendants would often offer to repair the recruited individual’s vehicle at automobile repair shops that Sanchez-Becerra or a co-defendant owned, usually with less-than-complete repair work, and for a fee that was less than the payment from the insurance company. In all, Sanchez-Becerra caused at least $210,000 in false insurance claims to be paid as a result of the conspiracy to defraud.
In each staged accident, Sanchez-Becerra and other defendants utilized two or three vehicles and caused about $5,000 to $10,000 in damage to each vehicle. After each staged collision, the defendants submitted cover stories to the insurer that concealed the true cause of the accident. The cover story would commonly use aliases, false identities, and false addresses when describing the defendants. The defendants also used different vehicles in the staged collisions. They were able to do this by obtaining many different vehicles and using false identities to both register the vehicles with the Department of Motor Vehicles and obtain insurance policies for the vehicles. The defendants did this to avoid scrutiny by the insurer that reviewed the false claims. The defendants repeated the scheme in dozens of crashes by recruiting other individuals to participate in the staged collisions. These individuals would allow their vehicles to be damaged and would submit their own claim for damages. In many instances, false claims were submitted to the recruited individual’s insurance company.
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.
Co-defendants Victor Hugo Soriano-Villafan, 26, of Modesto, and Alfonso Apu, 47, of Modesto, have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Charges are pending against co‑defendants Juan Ortiz Rivas, 39, of Ceres; Oscar Diaz Landa, 46, of San Jose; Liobigildo Vargas, 46, of Turlock; and Juan Marquez Cadenas, 30, of Patterson. The charges against them are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.