Two individuals, a man and his female accomplice, have recently been arrested in Santa Clara County for their parts in a confidence scheme involving elderly drivers. Allegations state that the pair would step behind the vehicle of an elderly person as the older driver was backing up, make a loud thumping noise on the back of the vehicle, and then claim to have been injured. The insurance money the two collected totals, police say, upwards of $18,000. In fact, it was the insurance company that was curious about several different claims. They have both been charged with 16 and 10 felonies, separately, including grand theft.
According to California Insurance Code 1871, it is unlawful for an individual to make false or fraudulent claims when dealing with insurance companies. Penalties include up to 1 year in county jail and up to $150,000 in fines. Of course, these are just the penalties under the Insurance Code; they do not include consequences that arise from violations of the criminal code, like charges of felony grand theft (CA Penal Code 487).
Pursuant to 487 of the California Penal Code, grand theft is defined as the unlawful taking of another person’s property that is valued at or above the sum of $950.00. Grand theft is, however, a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that prosecutors study the facts of a particular case and then determine whether they will treat it as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Because the individuals above took monies over the amount of $950, they may each face up to 3 years in state prison for each felony grand theft charge.