Monday, June 9, 2008

California Man Arrested for Wildfire Insurance Fraud

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced that Olav A. Flores, 35, of Cedar Glen, surrendered himself to San Bernardino Superior Court after learning an arrest warrant was issued charging him with one count of insurance fraud for falsely claiming that his house was damaged due to the fires. A subsequent investigation revealed that the house had not been damaged.

On Oct. 24, 2007, Flores submitted a homeowner's property claim for smoke damage to the interior of his home in Cedar Glen. Flores reportedly made statements to Farmers Insurance stating that he had been forced to evacuate his home on Oct. 22, 2007 and that he had a crew of workers remove damaged drywall from the interior of his property. He further stated that the drywall and floor had been replaced. An investigation by Farmers' Insurance Special Investigations Unit revealed there was no smoke damage to the property and the drywall and floor was not even in place prior to the alleged date of loss.

Farmers' investigation further revealed that the home in Cedar Glen, although owned by Flores, was rented to another couple. The home was in the process of being remodeled but was still able to be occupied. The tenants lived there prior to, during and after the fires of October 2007.

Additionally, according to statements obtained from witnesses, no smoke damage occurred in the residence and no drywall was replaced as indicated by Flores. Flores reportedly told Farmers' the dates he had a work crew in the home to remove the drywall, yet these dates were the same time as mandatory evacuations of the area. As a result of this claim, Flores could have received approximately $12,000 to $15,000 to pay for the replacement of drywall in his home had Farmers Insurance Exchange not discovered the alleged fraud.

Following a criminal investigation by detectives from the Inland Empire Regional Office of the Department of Insurance's Fraud Division, the San Bernardino District Attorney's Office filed one felony count of insurance fraud against Flores. On May 16, 2008 Flores surrendered himself to court and will be arraigned on June 10, 2008 in San Bernardino Superior Court.

If convicted, Flores faces imprisonment for up to five years in state prison and up to a $50,000 fine.

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