'Swoop and squat' ring busted in California

| 6/23/2006

The Los Angeles County Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force arrested 20 people on Thursday, June 23, as part of a crackdown on a major auto insurance fraud ring operating in the Los Angeles area.

According to a news release, the ring staged dozens of “swoop and squat” accidents during a two-year period. Members of the group would use two vehicles to stage the accidents.

The first vehicle, a “squat” vehicle, would drive in front of a victim's vehicle on the highway. The second vehicle would then swoop in front of the “squat” vehicle, giving the appearance of a legitimate reason to slam on the breaks. The victim's vehicle, unable to stop, would then slam into the “squat” vehicle.

Sometimes they would also use additional vehicles to prevent the victim from switching lanes. The scammers would then go to work racking up all sorts of charges on the victim's insurance.

Members of the ring included employees at a law office and a chiropractic clinic. Authorities said the scammers at the law office would obtain legal counsel for the people driving the “squat” cars, and would then refer them to the chiropractic clinic, where they would sign up for numerous treatments and generate false medical billings.

The false billings from all of these services were then used to generate larger settlements with the insurance companies.

A husband and wife, who were part of the ring, served as administrators for the law office and chiropractic clinic, respectively. They were arrested, along with a chiropractor from the clinic, in an earlier bust on June 7.

This ring orchestrated an estimated 125 collisions during its time of operation.

The suspects have been charged with multiple counts of fraud. The case is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. No trial date has been set.