9 convicted
of auto insurance
fraud this year

Nine people have been convicted of auto insurance fraud by the state Insurance Division since the start of the year, said Insurance Commissioner Wayne Metcalf.

"If people realize that there's consequences to fraudulent insurance claims, then hopefully they'll be deterred," Metcalf said yesterday.

According to a 1997 report by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a national anti-fraud watchdog, the average Hawaii family pays almost $200 extra annually because of auto insurance fraud. But Metcalf said Hawaii's fraud rate is mild compared with other states.

"We do quite well," he said. "Fraud's not a serious problem."

Metcalf heads the Insurance Division of the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs, which investigates fraud referrals from insurance companies and prosecutes fraud cases. Those convicted so far this year include:

>> Charles L. and Jessica Fisher, who were ordered to pay almost $11,000 in restitution and perform 200 hours of community service after they staged the theft of their vehicle, had co-workers get rid of it and then falsely reported it stolen.

>> Joelyn Piilani Victor, who was ordered to pay $7,271.14 in restitution for abandoning and burning her car and then reporting it stolen.

>> John B. Limon, who was fined $100 and ordered to contribute $5,000 to the state general fund and complete 250 hours of community service for falsely reporting his car stolen.

>> Lori Nobu, who was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine to the state general fund for filing a false claim of car damage.

>> Damon L. Thomas, who was ordered to send an apology to the president of First Insurance Co. of Hawaii and contribute $100 to the state general fund for helping someone commit fraud.

Metcalf said fraud cases are difficult to detect. But, he said, "When the law does catch up, the penalties can be quite severe."

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