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Press Release | NO. 2002-128

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Press Release # 128
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly And Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson Announce 22 Arrests In Takedown Of Major Auto Insurance Fraud Ring

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson today announced the arrest of 22 people as part of the takedown of a major auto insurance fraud ring based in the Bronx. As part of Operation F.I.G. (Fraudulent Insurance Give-up), detectives in the Auto Crime Division also recovered 47 stolen vehicles with a total estimated value of more than $820,000.

"Once again, the talent and dedication of our detectives has put an end to a widespread crime operation," said Police Commissioner Kelly. "Our officers amassed enough evidence that should ensure conviction of these criminals, and their work serves as another warning: We will not tolerate insurance fraud in New York City."

"It must be understood that the collective greed of individual owners picks the pockets of honest consumers. Insurance fraud drives up the cost of the premiums that we all have to pay," said Bronx District Attorney Johnson. "Hopefully, these arrests will send a strong message that this kind of dishonest and illegal conduct will be punished."

During the 30-month investigation, members of the Auto Crime Division's Bronx Investigation Module rented a warehouse in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx and set up a fake insurance fraud operation. The crime ring worked like this: Car owners gave their vehicles to the crime ring's leaders, and then claimed they had been stolen to collect insurance money. The leaders of the crime ring turned around and sold the cars to undercover detectives, whose fake operation claimed to ship them overseas to be sold in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

The crime leaders were Lance Medina, 26; Leonard Sanchez, 25; Robert Bibbens, 27; and Juan Reyes, 33. Medina and Sanchez were arrested on Monday, October 28, and Reyes was arrested on Tuesday, October 29. Bibbens was already being held on other charges. All four have been charged with Grand Larceny Auto and Insurance Fraud. Police also arrested 18 other members of the crime ring -- 17 for Insurance Fraud, one for Filing a False Police Report.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau and Progressive Insurance assisted the New York City Police Department throughout this investigation.

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