Monday, May 2, 2011

University Place man pleads guilty to insurance fraud

A University Place, Wash. man has pleaded guilty to felony insurance fraud after lying about the cause of a Pierce County crash that damaged his Jeep.

Warren Gardinier, 22, was sentenced on April 20th to 40 days in jail (concurrent with an unrelated firearms charge) and ordered to pay court fees and a victim penalty assessment.

On Dec. 9, 2009, Gardinier told the Tacoma Police Department that another vehicle had clipped his red 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee, causing him to spin out of control, into a fence and then into a tree. He and a passenger sustained minor injuries. The vehicle was insured by his 26-year-old sister for liability coverage only. (Liability coverage will pay for damage you cause to someone else or their property, but not damage you cause to your vehicle or yourself.)

Gardinier called his sister. She called State Farm 36 minutes after the wreck and added uninsured motorist coverage.

Five days later, the two told State Farm the damage stemmed from a hit and run collision Dec. 10. State Farm paid $4,523 for the damage to the Jeep.

Unbeknownst to Gardinier and his sister, however, a witness had seen the crash and called 911. The witness -- who followed the Jeep and got the license plate number -- said there was no other vehicle involved. He said that Gardinier's Jeep had been speeding erratically, fishtailing, and driving off the shoulder and across the road. After several swerves, the witness said, Gardinier's Jeep crashed into the fence and rapidly left the scene.

That 911 call took place before Gardinier's sister called State Farm.

Gardinier's sister agreed to pay full restitution to State Farm. When she has paid that in full, an insurance-fraud charge against her will be dismissed.