Nine people were arrested for their roles in a $600,000 residential insurance fraud scheme in Miami-Dade, and officials will arrest 25 homeowners who also allegedly participated in the plot.
Barbara Maria Diaz de Villegas, the ring leader, her father Jose Gonzalez, and seven others, including an adjuster, plumber and an insurance agent, were among those arrested, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced on Tuesday.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Rubicon,” uncovered that Diaz de Villegas, a public adjuster who ran her company Rubicon Group, would recruit homeowners to participate in the fraud. She would send a contractor to create water damage or fake the damage altogether and have an insurance agent create a new policy or take out more coverage on an existing policy, NBC Miami reported.
Insurance companies in South Florida and Tampa tipped authorities off about possible insurance fraud, leading to the year-long investigation. Diaz de Villegas was first arrested on insurance-fraud charges in May 2018, according to the Miami Herald.
The nine people arrested are facing charges of RICO, The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Law, and conspiracy to commit RICO – both first degree felonies – as well as second degree felonies of grand theft and filing a false/fraudulent insurance claims, according to the state attorney’s office. They could face up to 30 years in prison.
“It’s scams like the one we are describing today that play a huge role … in what many believe are exploding insurance rates,” Rundle said. Her office is seeking a $500,000 bond for Diaz de Villegas, whom Rundle said was the “essential element of the fraud,” NBC Miami reported.
South Florida has been home to a number of insurance and mortgage fraud scandals. A California man was recently sentenced to more than nine years in prison for his role in a mortgage fraud and identity theft scheme in Broward County. [NBC Miami] —Katherine Kallergis