17 Arrested in Calif. on Insurance Fraud, Grand Theft

December 15, 2005

Calif. Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi has announced the arrests of 17 suspects in connection with an alleged Southern California insurance fraud scheme that netted more than $100,000 through ruse involving a former claims adjuster and 16 co-conspirators.

The arrests followed a year-long investigation by the California Department of Insurance Fraud Division, which was assisted by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and the California Highway Patrol. The Orange County District Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case.

The involved enforcement agencies executed 17 arrest warrants at locations in Inglewood, Hawthorne, Downey, Los Angeles, Playa Del Rey, Carson, Cerritos, Compton, La Habra and Moreno Valley, Calif. The former claims adjuster, Sheryl Bobbitt, 34, was arrested at her residence in Downey, and was charged with 47 counts of insurance fraud and 47 counts of grand theft. Her boyfriend, Stanley Walker, 43, of Inglewood, faces the same charges, according to CDI.

According to investigators, Bobbitt was hired approximately four years ago by Western United Insurance as a claims adjuster. The alleged scheme began when Walker solicited family and friends to act as payees for accident claims submitted to Western United. Those payees allegedly received $200 to $800 for cashing the checks issued by Bobbitt. They would then give the remainder of the settlement check to Walker, who would forward that to Bobbitt, according to investigators.

An audit conducted by Western United of 35 Bobbitt claim files allegedly revealed that Bobbitt had fraudulently written 47 separate checks to 26 individuals. When she was subsequently interviewed by Western United Insurance Special Investigation Unit investigators, she reportedly admitted writing the fraudulent checks.

Additional suspects arrested include, Jennifer Yearwood, 39, Compton; Ricardo Lara, 23, Inglewood; Deici Alvarado, 24, Inglewood; Eric Bell, 36, Moreno Valley; Courtney Smith, 20, Inglewood; Mark Smith, 44, Inglewood; Verna Henderson, 46, Inglewood; Susan Gordon, 48, Hawthorne; Michael Walker, 43, Inglewood; Barbara Okonkwo, 59, Los Angeles; Douglas Madison, 63, Playa Del Rey; Rhonda Jones, 38, Carson; Diane Taylor, 48, Cerritos; Rosemary Lopez, 36, La Habra; and Rachel Smith, 28, of Los Angeles. All are charged with at least one count each of insurance fraud and grand theft.

The CDI Fraud Division received assistance in the execution of the arrest warrants from the Orange County Auto Theft Task Force (OCATT) and local law enforcement agencies within each jurisdiction where the warrants were served. If convicted of all offenses Bobbitt and Walker could face up to 82 years in state prison and a fine of over $200,000.

The remaining suspects, if convicted, could receive a sentence of between five and nine years in state prison and a fine of $50,000.