Operation Sledgehammer uncovers massive auto insurance fraud ring in lower Westchester, Bronx
A massive auto insurance fraud ring in lower Westchester and the Bronx has been busted.
Operation Sledgehammer was an investigation that took two years. It was a collaboration between several local police departments and agencies.
Known as the "Jawahir Enterprise," the group allegedly included five businesses and nine defendants.
The businesses included Lee’s Auto Repair, Cermele’s Auto Collision, R&G Auto Works and Ramiah Auto Repair - all from New Rochelle. The sting also included City Auto Repair in the Bronx. Two of the auto shops allegedly involved in the fraud scheme are located within blocks of each other in New Rochelle.
In some cases, members allegedly enhanced motor vehicle damage on insurance claims so they could bill for more than it actually cost to repair the car.
In other instances, members allegedly submitted claims to multiple insurance companies in an attempt to receive money.
"We used cameras to see what was going on right outside the building, and the groups were very blatant about what they were doing…hammering away with their sledgehammers, increasing damage to vehicles," says Westchester District Attorney Anthony Scarpino.
Surveillance footage from the Westchester DA's Office shows two men using cardboard to strategically dent a sedan.
"Sometimes the owner of the vehicle was aware of what was going on, sometimes they were not," says Scarpino.
In another video, a car appears to purposely hit another car multiple times.
"This was not just an individual or small operation. This was an enterprise that created a systemic issue," says Scarpino
Scarpino says the fraud amounts to "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
"This type of activity increases all of our premiums," says Scarpino. "It trickles down to all of us."
All nine defendants were charged with enterprise corruption.
News 12 stopped by the four auto shops in New Rochelle allegedly involved in the fraud scheme. None of them responded to News 12's request for comment.
The DA says this investigation is far from over. He expects more arrests to come.