With the current state of the nation’s economy still in the red, more and more car owners in Dallas are resorting to desperate and illegal means to get rid of their cars and claim insurance money.
Known as “owner give up”, the insurance fraud scam is alarming criminal lawyers and police officials in Dallas. Drivers abandon their vehicles and in some cases, destroy them, to claim insurance money.
Texas ranked second out of all the states for probable owner give-up cases with 353 reported incidents. The data was collected from January 2004 to March 2008, and excludes recent months when the economy shrank and unemployment rose.
Dallas also ranked 8th out of ten cities with the most number of owner give-up cases, with another Texas city, Houston, beating all other cities in the United States.
The economy’s dive also triggered a sharp increase in the suspected give-up cases nationwide, with figures going up 24 percent from the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009.
Barry Sorrels, a Dallas criminal attorney, says that insurance fraud is fast become a widespread problem. He blames the poor economy for the prevalence of the insurance scam.
Sorrels also warned that car insurance scams are more widespread than usually reported, adding that there should be more cases prosecuted than at present. The lawyer explains that many suspects avoid prosecution because they control the crime scene.
Despite this, police forces and criminal prosecutors have stepped up efforts to address this growing concern. Just last June 12, fire-investigators from Dallas charged husband and wife Erik and Sonia Stice with arson and insurance fraud for the destruction of their Dodge pickup last December.
Investigars said that Erik Stice expressed frustration over the truck’s heavy fuel consumption. Stice was also cited as saying that he was unable to sell the vehicle because of the bad economy. The couple also admitted handing the vehicle over to Erik Stice’s colleague, Aveline Rodriguez, to have it burned. Rodriguez has also been charged with arson for her part in the incident.
Even one of Dallas’ finest was accused of filing a false report, saying that his car had been stolen. Dallas police officer Jose Gomez resigned last July and his case is pending in the courts.
With theories about the recent spike in car insurance frauds circulating, the Insurance Information Institute says that property and casualty fraud cost insurance companies over $30 billion a year.