Hialeah Police announced Thursday that they arrested four people accused of collecting money from auto insurance companies without doing the proper repair work on the vehicles.
An investigation by the Hialeah and Miami-Dade Police departments, the National Insurance Crime Bureau and Allstate Insurance titled “Operation Bandidos” netted the arrests of Edwin Rodriguez, Rafael Rico, Janet Alonso-Rico and Eduardo Valdes-Murguido. The foursome faces several counts of grand theft and insurance fraud, police said.
Police say the group arrived at accident scenes and offered to take vehicles to body shops with their tow trucks. The four suspects allegedly collected thousands of dollars from insurance companies without repairing damage to the vehicles, according to authorities.
“These guys lived a party lifestyle like rock stars on insurance company money and from victims – drivers here in Florida – who ended up having to pay for these losses,” Carl Zogby of Hialeah Police said.
He said the foursome "thought they had gotten away with this."
"They've been doing this for years, they made a lot of money. They didn't expect that, at 5:30 this morning, 20 police officers would show up at their houses," Zogby said.
Police say the group opened six different collision shops in five years and suspect that they defrauded hundreds of victims in all.
Elsa Baez was one.
"About a block away from the shop, the car just stopped functioning, and the radiator just leaked completely," she said.
She got her car back but paid another shop to fix it, leaving her out of $10,000, she said.
"I told 'em straightforward, I said 'you guys are just stealing from everyone, and it's so unfair,'" Baez said.
Here is a list of the sham body shops set up largely or solely to facilitate the scheme, according to police:
North Dade Collision Center, 12975 NE 14th Ave., North Miami Beach
North Dade Collision Center, 1890 NE 150th St, North Miami Beach
Eddie and Frank's Collision Inc, 17060 NW 3rd Ave., North Miami Beach
Florida's Finest Collision Center, 4111 NW 132 St., Bay H, Opa-Locka
South Florida Collision, 1890 NE 150th St., North Miami Beach
The Collision Center, 7801 West 26th Ave., Hialeah
Miami Dade Collision, 2529 NW 21st Terrace, Miami