For Consumers

Cell phone records call up fraud charges against Pierce County woman

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December 23, 2013

OLYMPIA, Wash. – An investigation by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s office has resulted in charges of theft and fraud against a Tacoma woman who attempted to collect insurance money for a car she claimed was stolen and destroyed in a fire.

Washington state Attorney General Robert Ferguson charged Donica Santos, 39, with single counts each of first-degree theft and insurance fraud after Kreidler’s Special Investigations Unit found evidence of the crimes.

“Insurance fraud is a serious crime,” said Kreidler. “Luckily, in this case, the attempted fraud was uncovered before the claim was paid.”

According to the investigation, a driver reported Santos’ vehicle was on fire on the side of Reservation Road in north Thurston County at about 1:40 a.m. on March 16, 2012. Santos reported to Travelers’ Insurance Co. later that day that her car had been stolen from her Tacoma home and was a total loss. Santos told investigators that she had last seen her vehicle the previous night and had not left her house or used her cell phone between 10:30 p.m. and 2:50 a.m., when police arrived at her house to investigate.

However, Santos’ cell phone records showed she used her phone repeatedly in the late evening on March 15 and early morning hours of March 16 and several of the calls were made in Thurston County, near where her car was found.

As a result of the investigation, Travelers Insurance denied Santos’ claim in October 2012 but was required by state law to pay off the loan balance of more than $17,000 for the 2006 Chrysler 300C.

Santos is scheduled to enter a plea in Pierce County Superior Court on Jan. 2.

The charges were filed Dec. 18. The maximum penalty for insurance fraud is five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, restitution and fees. The maximum penalty for first-degree theft is 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine, restitution and fees.

Kreidler’s office investigates insurance fraud and works with the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute some of its cases.

You can report suspected insurance fraud on the Insurance Commissioner’s website.