Alleged Fresno insurance fraud ring could drive up your rates

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Two Fresno men are accused of an extensive insurance fraud ring involving fake car accidents, phantom victims, and more than $125,000 allegedly stolen. The paper trail led Action News to a Central Fresno repair shop.

The investigation turned up what appears to be a simple, but elaborate, scheme that could drive up your car insurance rates. We found vehicles reportedly involved in several collisions, all in a matter of a few months, sometimes even while they were supposed to be in the repair shop from prior accidents. Investigators say a total of at least 18 crashes and more than 30 insurance claims are all connected to the same two brothers.

It's hardly noticeable nestled among the other cars at one of many repair shops along Blackstone, but a Nissan van caught the attention of insurance fraud investigators. Three times in three months and to three insurance companies, it was reported to be in a collision. Each report detailed similar claims -- a drive on the freeway, a sideswipe, and a secondary collision with another car or a concrete median.

And the same is true for 15 other claims, including several involving BMWs. Insurance fraud investigators found the same phone numbers and addresses used by several of the people involved in the supposed crashes. In a search warrant Action News uncovered, they call it fraud, and ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says it's not the most sophisticated scheme.

"We often talk about Keystone Cops, this is clearly Keystone Crooks -- using the same names, same cars for a number of accidents and then collecting money at the same addresses," he said.

The investigation led back to the repair shop where the van was sitting Friday, the one where many of the photos were taken for the claims. Its owners are Artur and Hakob Grigoryan and the trail also led to their homes in Northwest Fresno. We tried both homes but couldn't track down the brothers.

Investigators seized evidence at the homes, though, including insurance records in several different names that were used to make claims. Identity fraud may also be an issue. And Capozzi says this is the type of crime that could be expensive for every driver in the Fresno area.

"With these fictitious claims, and money being paid out that should not have been paid out will affect all of our insurance rates," he said.

Neither brother has been charged with a crime yet and we did get a call Friday afternoon from a man who identified himself as Hakob Grigoryan. He didn't answer our specific questions about details, but he denied committing any crimes.

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