On August 10, 2009, a husband and wife, their son, and their son’s wife were arrested in Sacramento on charges of car insurance fraud. The family members are accused of faking the theft of a vehicle in order to claim insurance money.
The accused are Amjad Javaid, 53; his wife Zarina Javaid, 43; their son, Fahad Javaid, 24; and their son’s wife, Fatima Javaid, 23. The alleged theft took place on October 3, 2006, when the Javaids filed a claim with their insurance company (Hartford) for the theft of a 2003 Range Rover. Later the same day, police found the SUV in San Jose. It had been set on fire and was in unsalvageable condition.
According to a statement by Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, all four have been charged with conspiracy, presenting a false oral or written statement to the insurance company, and knowingly presenting a false claim to the insurance company. All except for Zarina Javaid are also being charged with arson.
The false oral statement charge stems from statements that the Javaids made to Hartford the year of the alleged theft. They reported that the vehicle had been stolen from in front of their house in Elk Grove on October 2. They claimed that no one was home at the time and that the theft was discovered upon returning.
Investigators, however, learned that the Javaids had lied about where they were on the day of the alleged theft; investigators also learned that the Javaids had likely been suffering financial difficulties at the time, which suggested a motive for insurance fraud. Hartford Insurance Company denied the Javaids’ claim, which would have required a $50,000 payment to the family.
The sentence for car insurance fraud, if the Javaids are convicted, would be up to five years in prison for each family member, and/or a $10,000 fine for each convicted individual.
Cars being lit on fire to justify car insurance claims have become more common in the past several years as the economy has declined. James Quiggle, a representative of The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, says that the recession has been a serious factor: “A growing number of stressed-out consumers around the U.S. are ditching unwanted vehicles to try and stop them from falling off a financial cliff in the recession.”
Police in the Las Vegas area alone found more than 70 burned-out cars in 2008 in spite of the increase in availability of cheap car insurance. The U.S. Fire Administration has released 2007 statistics indicating that 20,500 cars were set on fire in that year alone.
Lt. Robert Duvall of the LVPD Auto Theft Unit urges people not to try to commit car insurance fraud by destroying their vehicles: “Take the hit on your credit or whatever, don’t commit this crime. What you’re risking in injury far outweighs anything you’ll gain financially.”