Cass County prosecutors last week filed felony charges of conspiring to commit fraudulent insurance and illegally conduct a business against residents of Fargo Connor Del Marum, Jamal Dantrell Neita, Zachary Scott Norquist, Tarron Lashon Spagging, Emmanuel Essam, Elijah Darne Stone and Steven Stone. Neita appeared in court on Monday, April 19, and arrest warrants were issued for the other defendants.
The North Dakota Insurance Fraud Division began investigating the group in June after receiving an online referral from Geico Insurance. The company said Steven Stone purchased a liability insurance policy for a pickup truck he didn’t own, but claimed he backed up in Neita’s parked vehicle, according to a criminal complaint.
The van had been parked for two years, and Geico agents speculated that Steven Stone saw the van, noted the VIN and purchased an insurance policy for the vehicle, according to the complaint. Geico had four complaints on file regarding the van.
These four claims connected Steven Stone to Marum, Essam, Spagging and Neita, according to the complaint. Further investigation revealed 15 claims that had a common pattern: The defendants bought a vehicle and were involved in a collision reported a few days later, most of the accidents involving another defendant, according to the complaint.
Insurance claimants said they were distracted when they hit a vehicle, but some of the claims were for a vehicle they didn’t own, drive or even owned at the time of the crash, court documents show.
Insurance agents from various companies said the damage to the vehicles did not match the description of what happened, according to the complaint.
The claims totaled over $ 67,000 and took place between September 4, 2018 and May 27, 2020.
Fraud investigator Joe Pittman has worked in the North Dakota Insurance Department for 10 years. He said organized accident networks would buy a vehicle cheaply, wait for the opportunity to crash it, report it to an insurance company and cash the check, he said. They then sell the vehicle and buy another.
Some can damage the vehicle, and sometimes they wait for other drivers to change lanes before hitting them, he said.
Insurance fraud is the second most profitable crime, behind illegal drug sales, and the most committed crime, Pittman said. It costs US consumers $ 80 billion to $ 120 billion each year, according to the North Dakota Department of Insurance.
Insurance premiums are pooled for the settlement of claims.
“Consumers in North Dakota are being victimized,” he said. “When someone scams the insurance company, they take our premiums.
Most of the cases handled by Pittman’s office are small compared to Fargo’s, although his agency handles around 300 each year. In 2020, North Dakotas lost $ 523,000 in fraud cases and an additional $ 1.1 million in 2019, he said.