Government Employees Insurance Co., GEICO Indemnity Co., GEICO General Insurance Company and GEICO Casualty Co. (collectively Geico) has filed a federal lawsuit in Central California against Winaffix Auto Glass LLC (WAG) and its owners, Tal Elzari and Navid Vatankhahan. The auto insurance company alleges WAG and its owners are responsible for an “ongoing fraudulent scheme” committed against Geico and the California auto insurance industry, after “wrongly obtaining more than $150,000 by submitting dozens of fraudulent windshield reimbursement claims.” Geico is seeking to recover financial damages under the civil racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations act (RICO) statutes.
In addition to money damages, Geico is seeking a declaration that states it is not legally obligated to pay reimbursement of more than $50,000.00 in outstanding claims for windshield replacement services that have been submitted by the defendants through WAG, according to Geico’s complaint.
Geico provided the following rationale as to why WAG’s auto glass claims should be seen as fraudulent:
- They involved charges for illusory windshield replacement services that were never legitimately provided in the first instance;
- They involved the submission of fraudulent and fabricated purchase invoices in order to substantiate their charges for the windshield replacement services and to create the appearance that the defendants had incurred legitimate acquisition costs, when in fact they had not; and
- The windshield replacement services were unlawfully provided by Winaffix without a license from the California Bureau of Automotive Repair.
“Defendants Tal Elzari and Navid Vatankhahan engineered a scheme to create the appearance that Winaffix provided legitimate windshield replacement services to [Geico’s] insureds in order to submit invoices to Geico for payment under the insureds’ motor vehicle insurance policies. In reality, Elzari and Vatankhahan used Winaffix as a vehicle through which they could submit a massive amount of fraudulent billing for goods and services that were never legitimately performed and/or provided in the first instance,” a portion of the complaint reads.
The insurance company stated it believes the alleged fraudulent scheme began in 2015 and has continued uninterrupted to the present day. According to Geico, WAG and its owners adopted a fraudulent practice to create the false appearance that the group legitimately purchased original equipment manufacturer (OEM) glass from reputable Southern California auto dealerships and that it was entitled to higher reimbursement for the auto glass replacement services. The fraudulent practice Geico mentioned was creating false auto dealership invoices.
“The defendants created the fraudulent dealership invoices to look as if they had actually been generated by the dealerships. Each invoice included the dealership name, a logo, and contact information for the dealership. The fabrication of documents for financial gain is a practice with which one or more of the defendants are familiar,” a portion of the complaint reads. “In fact, in July 2010, Vatankhahan was arrested and criminally prosecuted for creating and selling phony tickets over the internet to the comic book convention Comic-Con on the internet. Ultimately, in December 2010, Vatankhahan pleaded guilty to one count of criminal theft.”
Geico is currently seeking to recover its financial damages that equate to more than $150,000 from the defendants for their alleged fraudulent five-year scheme.
At press time, WAG and its owners had not yet responded to requests for comment from glassBYTEs. Check glassBYTEs.com for continuing coverage of this suit.