In late November of 2013, Texas Investigative Network, Inc. was contacted by an insurance company to obtain current contact information on several individuals whose vehicles were reported to have sustained fire damage as a result of a fire that took place at a restaurant in close proximity to the claimant’s auto repair shop in 2011. The individual’s vehicles were reportedly getting repair work done at the time of the fire. The insurance company informed us that the claimant, an auto repair shop owner, stated as a result of the fire that he was owed over $120,000.00 for the repairs he conducted on all the vehicles that were damaged in the fire. The reported repairs ranged from $500.00 to $7,700.00 per vehicle. Texas Investigative Network, Inc. was tasked in addition to obtaining current contact information on the damaged vehicle owners, to conduct telephone interviews with each individual in order to determine if the claim was factual and/or true.
Of the several individuals named on the list provided by our client, we were able to locate and interview six of them. Of the six people interviewed, only one of them had knowledge of a fire that took place, and the only reason he knew about the fire was because he lived in close proximity to the scene of the fire at the time. Another vehicle owner who was actually related to the claimant stated that he brought in a vehicle to the auto repair shop for a water leak months before the fire, and never saw his vehicle again. Of the six individuals interviewed, four brought in vehicles to the auto repair shop prior to the fire (in some cases years before the fire) and never received their vehicles back. One actually brought in her vehicle for A/C repair, but after two weeks of no work being done on it, retrieved her vehicle and then traded it in to a local auto dealership months later. The claimant stated this specific vehicle had sustained fire damage and as a result $500.00 worth of repairs were conducted, when in fact this vehicle was not even on the premises at the time of the fire. Another vehicle, a Ford Van which allegedly had also sustained damage as a result of fire, was owned by an individual who when contacted, stated he has never owned a van. After further questioning of this individual, TIN Investigator Skalka learned that he had in fact had a vehicle towed (a Mazda sedan) to this repair shop years before the fire, but that the quote for repair was too high, so no work was ever done on the vehicle. Another individual interviewed stated that they had brought in their vehicle for minor repairs prior to the fire in 2011, but never heard back from the auto repair shop. When contacted by the individual, the repair shop stated that they towed the vehicle to another location and was damaged during the transfer from the repair shop to the other location. This individual never received their vehicle back, nor did they file an insurance claim.
In summary, while it was discovered that at one point or another, all of the individuals did bring their vehicles in for repair, none of the individuals contacted had vehicles that were damaged as a result of a fire that occurred in 2011. Furthermore, some of the vehicles that came in for repair years before the fire took place, were never returned to their owners. Our findings were promptly reported to our client in a professional interview report which our client was pleased to receive. The claimant had produced documentation for each vehicle that had repairs done; however the paper work was obviously fraudulent. The claimant failed to realize that a simple phone call to the person identified on the paper work as owner of the vehicle would reveal the truth. In the investigative profession, one is rarely surprised by the many ways people attempt to commit fraud.