San Joaquin County Man Faces Over Fifty Felony Counts in Alleged Staged-Collision Insurance Fraud Scheme
A San Joaquin County man has been arraigned on over fifty felony counts of insurance fraud in which he would allegedly stage vehicle collisions in order to collect insurance payouts.
According to a press release by the California Department of Insurance, 43-year-old Eliu Canales has been charged with 54 felony counts of insurance fraud, assault with a deadly weapon, and reckless driving after allegedly staging over 20 vehicle collisions in order to collect insurance payouts. Canales was arraigned on March 15, following a joint investigation by the California Department of Insurance and the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office.
According to the investigation, Canales, who worked as a lead tow truck driver and defensive driving instructor for AAA, would hide in the blind spots of other drivers before accelerating and turning into their vehicles as they attempted to change lanes. Following the collisions, Canales would file insurance claims against the other drivers’ insurance companies, claiming over $86,000 in damage and collecting over $35,000 in payouts.
Canales reportedly used audio and video recording devices to document the collisions, many of which occurred at the same locations. He then uploaded the recordings to his YouTube channel, Stockton Drivers, in order to highlight what he believed to be “bad drivers” in the area. However, most of the videos have since been removed from his channel, the CDI said.
Authorities urge victims of staged collisions to insist on a police report, document as much information about the collision as possible, use a cell phone to document post-collision damage with photographs or video, ask the peace officer to positively identify everyone involved, and report any suspicious collisions to the California Department of Insurance by calling 800-927-4357 or visiting their website.
Canales was arrested on March 14, and was scheduled to appear in court again today, March 23. He is scheduled to return to court on March 29, 2023.
The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case.