Phoenix auto body shop owner accused of insurance fraud

Posted: Updated:
(From left) Juan Alejandro Villa, Guillermo "Willie" Altamirano, Rigoberto Lara-Corral By Christina O'Haver (From left) Juan Alejandro Villa, Guillermo "Willie" Altamirano, Rigoberto Lara-Corral By Christina O'Haver
Guillermo "Willie" Altamirano By Christina O'Haver Guillermo "Willie" Altamirano By Christina O'Haver
Rigoberto Lara-Corral By Christina O'Haver Rigoberto Lara-Corral By Christina O'Haver
Juan Alejandro Villa By Christina O'Haver Juan Alejandro Villa By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- The owner of a Phoenix auto body shop and two other men have been arrested for allegedly staging auto accidents to collect insurance claims.

The Arizona Department of Insurance says 33-year-old Champion Auto Body owner Guillermo "Willie" Altamirano, 48-year-old Rigoberto Lara-Corral and 25-year-old Juan Alejandro Villa were part of an organized crime syndicate which collected at least $200,000 in fraudulent claims.

Suspected ringleader Lara-Corral allegedly provided the group with vehicles, forged driver's licenses from Mexico and Guatemala, prepaid credit cards, disposable cellphones and forged Arizona motor vehicle titles.

The group reportedly relied on those items to purchase auto insurance under fictitious names.

Lara-Corral was arrested Thursday on six counts ranging from conspiracy and participating in a criminal syndicate to forgery and identity theft. Authorities say the Mexican national is in the United States illegally and awaiting a deportation hearing.

Altamirano was also arrested Thursday. He has been charged with conspiracy, assisting a criminal syndicate, fraudulent schemes, theft and forgery.

Authorities arrested 25-year-old Juan Alejandro Villa on Sept. 24 for his alleged participation in the ring. They say he filed at least five false claims worth nearly $20,000.

The Arizona Department of Insurance began an undercover operation at the auto shop near 15th Avenue and Broadway Road in April after receiving a tip from an insurance company.

The department said the insurance companies cooperated with the investigation, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Phoenix Police Department assisted with the arrests.

The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.

“It took months of intense investigation by our agents, as well as close cooperation between other law enforcement agencies and the insurance companies, to make these arrests,” Arizona Insurance Director Germaine Marks said in a statement. “I’m very pleased that after everyone’s hard work we were able to shut down this crime ring.”