A smashed Polaris Slingshot, friends inside the CHP. How investigators unraveled an insurance plot

The scheme had a lot of moving parts, but was surprisingly simple.

The Inland Empire Automobile Insurance Task Force, which has been investigating the plot for nearly two years, said it unfolded like this: Andre Angelo Reyes, 36, allegedly purchased traffic collision reports that contained personal information of drivers involved in crashes across Southern California from Rosa Isela Santistevan, a 55-year-old California Highway Patrol employee.

Investigators say Reyes would give the documents to a third individual, Esmeralda Parga, 26, who would call the drivers and pretend to be from their insurance company. She would allegedly coordinate for their damaged cars to be taken to a specific repair center, CA Collision, whose owner, Anthony Gomez, 35, was also in on the scheme, authorities said.

Then the repair shop would contact the insurance companies and demand cash to have the cars released, authorities said.

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Investigators allege the scheme resulted in 19 fraudulent claims resulting in a loss of more than $353,000 to insurance companies. This month, a total of 15 people involved in the scheme, including Reyes, of Corona; Santistevan, of Irvine; Parga, of Pomona; and Gomez, of Jurupa Valley, were charged with insurance fraud, grand theft by trick and false impersonation, state investigators wrote in a press release. The others were:

  • Ezequiel Baltazar Orozco, 30, of Los Angeles

  • Antonio Terrazas Perez Jr., 19, of Los Angeles

  • Erika Garcia, 31, of Los Angeles

  • Israel Avila Sandoval, 45, of Pomona

  • Luis Alberto Ramirez Jr., 32, of San Bernardino

  • Robert Arzac, 49, of West Covina

  • Antonio Ramirez Perez, 44, of Los Angeles

  • Brian Anthony Lopez, 25, of Anaheim

  • Emily Marie Boatman, 26, of Ontario

  • Ricardo Parga Jr., 23, of Pomona

  • Steven Anthony Alfaro, 38, of Buena Park

The Inland Empire Automobile Insurance Task Force, which includes representatives from the California Department of Insurance, the California Highway Patrol, the San Bernardino County district attorney's office and the Riverside County district attorney's office, launched its investigation in November 2022 after it was discovered that a CHP employee was apparently selling traffic collision reports.

Investigators say the scheme began after Reyes donated to several CHP events and parties and befriended Santistevan and other CHP employees.

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While executing search warrants on various properties during the investigation, authorities said they found evidence, including a video, of another type of insurance fraud called "collusive collisions," in which participants intentionally crash cars to collect insurance payments.

The video showed someone driving a Polaris Slingshot through a darkened road at night, blasting hip-hop music. The video cuts to someone doing donuts in the vehicle while another person films it. The next scene shows a BMW slamming into the front of the Slingshot. The man filming the crash says, "Oops."

Authorities said the individuals involved in the scam claimed the damage resulted from two separate crashes that occurred on a freeway.

"And that's just how we do it," the unidentified man says in the video as the two cars are being loaded onto a tow truck. "Two birds killed in one shot."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.