A Rancho Cucamonga man was sentenced to six years in state prison today after admitting his involvement in auto insurance fraud schemes by manipulating used car odometers and vehicle titles to make the vehicles appear more valuable and then using false identities of other victims to sell those cars on Craigslist and Auto Trader to unsuspecting customers.
Hani Abujudeh, 55, of Rancho Cucamonga, pleaded guilty to seven felony counts of Auto Insurance Fraud, Money Laundering, Perjury, False Impersonation and Grand Theft.
According to Deputy District Attorney Karen Parker-Parent, who prosecuted the case, Abujudeh was required to pay in court today the full amount of victim restitution in the amount of $189,475.22. The victims included 15 individuals and 4 insurance companies who appeared in court today to receive their restitution checks.
Parker-Parent added at least one of the victims has been unable to buy another car since the defendant sold her a car which was actually owned by someone else.
The defendant’s scam was discovered by investigators with the California Department of Insurance (CDI) who were looking into a number of potentially false claims associated with Abujudeh’s businesses.
“The schemes started unravelling when vigilant insurance investigators began noticing an unusual number of questionable insurance claims from the ‘Perfect Auto Detailers’ auto body repair shops in Rancho Cucamonga which the defendant owned,” said Parker-Parent.
She added that local law enforcement agencies were receiving reports from various victims of identity and sales frauds who had either sold or purchased cars from a man who gave them false identities.
A multi-agency fraud investigations team headed up by the CDI served a search warrant at the defendant’s home and discovered 25 fake drivers licenses (pictured below) as well as evidence of the various fraudulent insurance claims and vehicle sales. By following the title transfers on each of these vehicles, the team began to unravel the complex web of fraud involving Abujudeh and his co-defendants.
Parker-Parent, who is assigned to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Auto Insurance Fraud Urban Grant Unit, commented on the elaborate scam and how investigators and prosecutors were able to shut down his illegal operations.
“This prosecution is a prime example of how much can be accomplished when our law enforcement agencies network their information and resources,” Parker-Parent said. “Because Mr. Abujudeh used so many different identities in the many various auto insurance fraud schemes he committed, it would’ve been difficult for any one agency alone to identify the perpetrator.”
The case was the result of a multi-agency fraud team consisting of investigators from the California Department of Insurance, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, California Highway Patrol, San Bernardino County Sheriff, Homeland Security Investigations, Department of Motor Vehicles, and San Bernardino and Riverside County District Attorney’s offices.
“California is ground zero for auto insurance fraud, which paid for by consumers when insurers pass along their fraud losses through higher premium,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "Thanks to the hard work of our investigators at the Department of Insurance, our taskforce partners, and the San Bernardino District Attorney's office, Abujudeh's crimes were exposed and he was successfully prosecuted."
Eduardo Hernandez, 27, of Rancho Cucamonga, pleaded no contest to Insurance Fraud and was sentenced to 365 days in County Jail.
Francisco Aguilera, 26, of Santa Paula, Calif., is charged with Defrauding an Insurer - PC 548(a), Insurance Fraud - PC 550(a)(1), and False and Fraudulent Claim – PC 549. Dane Santibanez, 29, of Rancho Cucamonga, is charged with Defrauding an Insurer - PC 548(a) and Insurance Fraud - PC 550(a)(1). Both men are scheduled to appear in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court Nov. 7.