COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - On March 19, investigators from the Fraud Unit at the Georgia Department of Insurance arrested three individuals in Columbus, Ga. for allegedly participating in an insurance fraud scheme that involved vehicle identification numbers.
This is the second time the individuals have been arrested for crimes involving insurance fraud, with earlier arrests in 2017.
The three arrested were Devonta Waddy, Kamesha Lockett, and Rodney Lockett. Charges filed by the Muscogee County District Attorney's office include insurance fraud, theft by deception, and falsification of identification number. The defendants all face multiple charges in.
“It’s amazing what people will come up to do to take shortcuts, and historically the insurance fraud in Georgia, because people see it as a victimless crime there has not always been the appetite to pursue that. And quite frankly, that’s why we’re so appreciative of Muscogee county because the DA’s office in your county," said Jim Beck, the Georgia Insurance Commissioner.
"Oftentimes it’s hard to find a partner who’s willing to take on a case like this because even in the District attorney’s office at times they say ‘what’s the harm, the insurance was at a loss.’"
While some details of the investigation are remaining private, Beck was able to discuss part of how the case developed in Muscogee County and Columbus.
"Investigators in our fraud unit at the Georgia Department of Insurance arrested three individuals in Columbus for their apparent role in an insurance fraud scheme that involved vehicle identification numbers," said Beck, "Interestingly enough, these same individuals were out on bond from an arrest in June 2017 by the same fraud unit for their role in a scheme where they allegedly staged vehicle accidents.”
The three Columbus residents arrested are allegedly part of a group of 26 individuals involved in a staged vehicle accident ring in 2017, according to the commissioner.
According to Beck, the original scheme involved buying new, expensive cars and putting insurance on them, getting legitimate and legal VINs for them, then purchasing older, damaged versions of the cars to switch the VINs and report the damages to their insurance companies before pawning the new cars with the old identification numbers.
"Authorities are currently seeking three more suspects for their role in the alleged insurance fraud scheme. The Muscogee County District Attorney’s Office and the National Insurance Crime Bureau are assisting with this investigation," according to a report by the DoI.
In the new case, "it wasn't just the insurance companies being ripped off with these clunker cars, it was the title pawns too," said Beck.
Beck took office as Commissioner on Jan. 14 and has already seen an increase in insurance fraud arrests.
While there were only 53 arrests made in 2018, there have already been 24 this year, according to the DoI. “Since I took office on Jan. 14, we’ve already had 24 arrests for insurance fraud. Some of the cases are just amazing, they involve crimes against the elderly with some victims over the age of 90," said Beck.
In the 24 cases with arrests made so far, there have been 125 charges filed.
"This was an excellent joint effort between the agents in our Fraud Unit, the National Insurance Crime
Bureau, and the Muscogee County District Attorney’s Office. Interagency communication is the key to
leveraging limited resources,” said Beck.
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