Car rental agency under investigation for insurance claims

The Santa Clarita Courthouse Dan Watson/The Signal
The Santa Clarita Courthouse Dan Watson/The Signal

A tip from a Farmers Insurance claims investigator to a local agent with the Department of Insurance prompted an ongoing, yearslong investigation into an alleged fraud suspected of involving victims from Santa Clarita to San Jose, according to court records. 

Court documents identify a husband-and-wife team behind AT Car Rental, as well as a third suspect, who have not yet been arrested, according to investigators, who also identified actual paid-out losses at around $250,000 and the potential losses of approximately $850,000. 

All three reportedly lived at addresses in the San Fernando Valley during the time the alleged fraud took place, according to documents obtained by The Signal. 

Investigators suspect the mail-drop business, which did not have a registered physical address, phone number or website as of this story’s publication, used the identities of its clients to obtain insurance policies and then filed 30 fraudulent claims on behalf of its customers, according to sworn affidavits.  

The initial investigation began after a Special Investigations Unit employee of Farmers filed a “suspected fraudulent claim referral” with the state Department of Insurance’s Fraud Division. The third suspect was tied to the investigation through a cellphone number on a Facebook page of the business. 

The Farmers investigator alleged that a principal for the rental agency used the identities of the business’ clients to obtain 30 personal auto insurance policies in their names and then filed claims for the rental cars based on fraudulent policies, according to sworn statements. 

Documents also indicate that as many as 47 claims were filed using the allegedly fraudulent policies between September 2018 and July 2020, and they were all attached to older model Hyundai and Kia vehicles that had salvaged titles sold from a San Bernardino used car dealership, according to court records. 

The policies were largely written through a Woodland Hills-based insurance agency that investigators suspect knowingly wrote fraudulent policies, as Farmers Insurance does not insure rental cars, according to court documents. 

Court records indicate that investigators seized more than $20,000 in cash during a search of the car-rental business owners’ residence, as well as a sheet titled “People who owe us.” 

A phone number associated with one of the owners of AT Car Rental reached Monday confirmed the business was active, but denied any knowledge of the allegations before ending the call. 

No charges have been filed against any of the parties identified in the court documents obtained by The Signal at this time, according to court records available online. 

The social media accounts associated with the car rental agency do not appear to be active. 

An agent with the Department of Insurance declined to comment on the record, citing the active and ongoing status of the investigation, as did an official for Farmers Insurance. 

“We decline comment on matters related to active investigations involving the California Department of Insurance,” wrote Luis Sahagun, director of external communications, corporate, for Farmers Insurance, in an email sent Friday afternoon.  

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