Thursday, July 31, 2008
STATE’S INSURANCE COMMISSIONER HOLD NEWS CONFERENCE FOR A NON-STORY
By Leo E. Laurence
Copyright © 2008 by Leo E. Laurence • All rights reserved
Officials hold news conferences to announce something of importance locally. But when the state’s Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner, met with the press recently about “staged accident” fraud cases; it was a problem that didn’t exist, at least not in San Diego.
In Los Angeles, they have had a problem with people who con-spire to file big insurance claims after having a fake “accident.” Three cars are used to force a victim to hit one of them. Massive insurance claims are then filed and the fraud is complete.
But that’s in L.A.
In San Diego, there is no problem with this type of crime, at least not in the past two years, according to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. But that didn’t stop her from participating in the Poizner news conference at Qualcomm stadium in late June.
Poizner said there “might” be a problem someday, so they made a big deal out of the non-story.
Dumanis often holds news conferences for non-stories. She loves being in front of the TV news cameras. Let’s look at the statements made by these officials at the news conference.
Commissioner Poizner repeatedly said that these “staged acci-dents” are being executed by “organized crime rings.” To many people, we think of mafia-type criminal organizations when a state official refers to an “organized crime ring.”
Not so here. The “organized crime rings,” for purposes of this news conference, were merely any group of people who conspired to stage an accident to collect insurance money. There is no mafia-type, “organized,” criminal enterprise involved.
Poizner said the costs to the state’s insurance companies because of this type of insurance fraud is “$15 billion a year.”
More investigation, however, reveals that large figure refers only to insurance fraud generally, NOT to the “staged accident” issue that was the focus of the news conference.
Indeed, District Attorney bonnie Dumanis – who loves news conferences – said her office “takes these crimes seriously and we have an entire unit devoted to just insurance fraud.
“In the past year alone, out auto insurance fraud division has filed over or against 150 defendants and have made 112 convictions (sic),” Dumanis reported.
Did those cases involve “staged accidents,” which was the focus of the news conference.
Indeed, CHP Chief Bob Clark of the San Diego region reported that “we haven’t had a rash of them (staged accidents) here in San Diego.”
Dumanis later admitted that her office has prosecuted NO cases of staged-accident fraud cases in the past two years. “Over the past couple of years, we haven’t seen any, really,” she confessed.
So why hold a big news conference on the issue?
Because “staged-accident” fraud cases are a big problem in L.A., they “might” come south to San Diego?
‘It’s not a problem at the moment, (but) “could” be a problem in the future,” insurance commissioner Poizner explained.
So, the D.A., CHP chief and the state’s insurance commissioner called all the local media together at Qualcomm Stadium for a news conference for what “might” happen, or what “could be a problem” here.
Oh, incidentally, the non-issue news conference did give a huge platform to promote and advertise the Infinity insurance company, apparent sponsors of the news conference.
The insurance company’s PR staff was there and distributed press releases to all the media. They, too, quoted huge figures of auto-fraud losses in the stage, just as Poizner and Dumanis had done. But, the insurance company’s PR staff had NO estimates of costs caused by “staged accidents,” which was the focus of the news conference.
The victims of fraud at the news conference seemed to be only the news media.
For comment, contact Leo Laurence at email@example.com, or at (619) 757-4909.
Photo caption: State insurance commissioner Steve Poizner (r) holds a news conference with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and CHP chief Bob Clark of the San Diego region to “warn” against “staged-accident” fraud cases, which actually isn’t a local problem. Photo by Leo E. Laurence.