9 Investigates people crashing cars for cash

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

A new kind of fraud is on the rise in North Carolina, and it's putting drivers across the state in danger.

Investigators said suspects are crashing cars on purpose to make money.

“It’s making money. Easy money,” said Walt Woloszczuk with the National Insurance Crime Bureau said.

It’s a crime with many victims and authorities said the people responsible don’t think about the consequences.

“They don't really care if you, the innocent driver, is harmed or not. They just want the payoff,” said Wayne Goodwin with the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

The state Department of Insurance has been tracking staged car accidents for the past several years and investigators say they're on the rise.

“Over the last seven years, we have detected and arrested and shut down 34 staged car accident schemes, those have been from minor amounts to tens of thousands of more dollars,” Goodwin said.

Channel 9 got a look at how the department’s investigators track the criminal rings responsible.

The DOI works with the National Insurance Crime Bureau to create a database that links insurance claims with phone numbers, addresses and driver’s license numbers. They often find the suspects file fake documents time after time.

“Once they see how simple it is, what do they do? They do it again,” Woloszczuk said.

In 2009 in Stanly County, DOT investigators arrested a body shop owner and three other people they said were using already damaged vehicles to stage accidents -- more than 50 of them, according to authorities.

“They knew what paperwork to submit in order to get that payout,” said NCDOT criminal investigator Chet Effler.

Last month authorities arrested Shane Glenn, Wesley Scarbrough and Christina Steagall on charges of insurance fraud. Criminal documents said Scarborough and Steagall rented a U-Haul to ram into the back of Glenn's car in east Charlotte and then tried to bilk their insurance companies out of money.

When Channel 9 caught up with Scarbrough after a recent court appearance he called his arrest "a big misunderstanding."

Investigators said accidents like this not only put innocent drivers at risk, but cost drivers across the state.

Officials estimate that of every dollar drivers pay for insurance premiums, nearly 10 cents goes to fraudulent claims.

“These people are thieves. They're stealing from the insurance company from you and me. Who eventually pays? We all pay,” Woloszczuk said.

Glenn, Scarbrough and Stegall go to court next month on their charges.

The case in Stanly County also goes to trial next month.

CLICK HERE for more information on how to report fraud.