7 Arrested in Bay Area Auto Insurance Fraud Ring

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Authorities say they have cracked a Bay Area auto insurance fraud ring with the arrests of seven people who allegedly reaped up to $1 million in phony claims through staged car accidents.

The arrests, announced in San Francisco on Thursday, resulted from a 20-month investigation by the state Insurance Department and the California Highway Patrol.

Arrested Wednesday was accused ringleader Tony Tran of Oakland; his wife, Debbie To; Oakland chiropractor Stewart Chen; Chinh Doan Pham of Alameda, a medical clinic office manager; San Francisco personal injury lawyers Ron Maidenberg and Magdalene Saunders, and San Leandro insurance agent Leonard Savino.


Two physicians accused in the scheme, Dr. Robert Bocknek and Dr. Eugene Tapia, are at large, state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi said in a statement Thursday.

Tran allegedly recruited insured motorists for the staged accidents. Chen or one of the doctors allegedly would then complete falsified medical records, which the two lawyers would then use to file false claims, Garamendi said.

Using search warrants, investigators last year collected evidence on seven staged accidents, five of which were settled by insurance companies for a total of nearly $300,000, Garamendi said. He added that investigators suspect that the ring may have staged dozens of accidents every year for as many as five years, costing up to $1 million in all.