The truth will come out
A special investigator for American Family exposed an illegal auto scam leading him to receive a national award.
The insured had a pretty good scam going. As a “straw buyer”, he was paid to purchase luxury cars that a company then shipped to China, to sell at three times the price. Then he got greedy and filed a theft claim on one of the cars. It landed with Sr. Field Investigator Todd Haltaufderheid, and through his dogged pursuit of the truth, the scam unraveled.
The suspicious claim
“The adjuster spotted problems right away when the theft claim came in for a recently purchased $97k Mercedes,” says Todd. “Our insured, owned several older cars and a garage in such bad shape we wouldn’t insure it. It didn’t add up.”
When Todd questioned the man about the car purchase, his answers were vague. Asked where the cash came from, he said his house. Asked where the check came from, he claimed he gave a check to his friend who got the check for the Iowa dealership.
The vehicle theft
Todd went on to question him about the theft. The man related how he had met his friend at a Chicago restaurant for dinner and left the vehicle with a valet. Around 9 p.m. they came out and found the car missing. His friend verified the story.
“The story was a well-rehearsed pack of lies,” says Todd. “Neither he or his friend were able to provide any proof – no valet ticket or restaurant receipt. The car wasn’t taken. I needed to find out where it went.”
The revealing visit
Todd visited the location shown on the dealership’s shipping invoice. The young man who answered the door told Todd he and his wife ran a sourcing company. They located products in the U.S. and shipped them to customers in China.
A worker at a nearby business revealed how the company took in expensive cars and prepared them for shipment to China, including changing needed documents into Chinese. Todd shared what he learned with Mercedes Benz International.
The ship to China
When he next heard from Mercedes, it broke the case wide open. “The car was listed on the manifest of a ship bound for China six days before the date it was allegedly stolen,” says Todd. “We were now in a position to deny the claim.”
Mercedes shared Todd’s information with the Secret Service. It’s illegal to buy these high-end cars in the U.S. and resell them overseas. Not long after, Todd heard from the Secret Service our insured admitted to the entire scheme. Indictments would be forthcoming.
The starter case
“We had the insured dead to rights for falsifying a police report and filing a false insurance claim,” says Todd. “We collected a lot of evidence in our investigation. It provided the starter case law enforcement needed to petition the feds to go after the ring leaders.”
Armed with search warrants, they went after the company. The business owner and his wife were arrested and convicted. Further prosecution of our insured and his friend is pending. The Secret Service seized $1.6 million in cash, 31 vehicles and a significant amount of personal property.
“It’s nice to get a denial, but to get the arrest sends a strong message to our customers that we’re working for all of them,” says Todd.
Todd Haltaufderheid named IASIU investigator of the year
Todd was named investigator of the year for his work on the Mercedes case. The award is given by the International Association of Special Investigation Units, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating insurance fraud.
“As I stared out over the audience, I was humbled. These were my peers and they selected me,” says Todd. “In my speech I said, ‘This is for all of American Family. This is the first one we’ve earned, and it’s for everyone who helped me along the way. It’s a team trophy.’”