CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An NBC Charlotte Defenders investigation is uncovering a dangerous and alarming trend that drivers will have to see to believe.
The team found people intentionally staging car crashes to collect insurance money, and it’s happening in the Queen City. Now, North Carolina is dramatically beefing up resources to combat insurance fraud.
The Defenders went to a Charlotte home to talk to a 29-year-old woman who, according to court documents, admitted to staging a crash.
However, the woman’s brother was at the home, and he told NBC Charlotte she doesn’t live there.
According to the traffic accident report, the crash happened around 5:30 p.m. on Old Concord Road near McDaniel Lane in September of 2018.
The report said the woman’s U-Haul slammed into the back of another car with two people inside. Both people were sent to the hospital, and both vehicles had heavy damage.
However, according to a search warrant, the apparent accident was no accident. Court documents showed the U-Haul driver confessed to staging the whole thing during a conversation with the insurance company’s investigators.
She said the other man and woman were also involved in the scheme, documents showed.
The 29-year-old woman’s brother told NBC Charlotte he was not aware of any of it.
“It is shocking because there’s a lot of thought and planning that goes into these type of activities,” said Frank Rodriguez, the deputy commissioner of the criminal division for the North Carolina Department of Insurance.
Rodriguez is well aware of the alarming trend. Since 2016, the Department of Insurance doubled the number of special agents from 20 to 40 to combat insurance fraud.
NBC Charlotte asked Rodriguez if the staged crashes are putting drivers at risk.
“Yes, every day,” Rodriguez told NBC Charlotte. “Anytime vehicles are purposely colliding on the roads that are heavily used is a safety factor.”
Here’s how the scheme works. One person takes a rental vehicle with comprehensive coverage and crashes it into another car with their co-conspirator. Then they make a false insurance claim.
“At which point, everyone claims some sort of injury and then they all get compensated,” Rodriguez told NBC Charlotte.
NBC Charlotte found out it’s happening around the state. In fact, half a dozen people pleaded guilty to various crimes connected to a stage crash in Greenville, N.C. last year. One of those involved even had her two children in the car.
Before that case, investigators said four people pre-planned a crash in 2017 in Greensboro, N.C.
“Annually, we’re probably seeing 20 reported cases. And I use the term ‘reported’ because there are a lot we don’t know about,” Rodriguez said.
The Department of Insurance said states with more crashes typically have higher insurance rates. While the accident itself may be fake, there’s a real financial impact to other drivers. Insurance fraud adds about 20 cents to every insurance premium dollar, according to the Department of Insurance.
The Department of Insurance said they are actively investigating the Charlotte crash, but at this point, no one has been charged. That’s why NBC Charlotte did not identify any of the people involved in the crash.