Monday, August 22, 2011

Auto glass company owner ordered to pay $1.6 million in insurance fraud case

A Burien auto glass company owner has been ordered to pay more than $1.6 million in restitution to several insurance companies for an overbilling scam.

Michael Alan Perkins, 44, on Friday was ordered in King County Superior Court to pay the following:
  • State Farm Insurance: $864,640
  • Allstate Insurance Co.: $726,700
  • Metropolitan Property & Casualty Insurance Co.: $24,888
Perkins pleaded guilty July 1 to three counts of first-degree theft. He was sentenced to 9 months in jail, with 30 days of the sentence converted to 240 hours of community service.
  
Perkins is the owner of Autoglass Express Inc. and Premier Auto Glass, LLC., both run out of Perkins' Burien home. An investigation by Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler's anti-fraud Special Investigations Unit, which spent months combing through more than 10,000 records, found more than $1.5 million in deceptive billing by Perkins' companies between September 2005 and December 2009.

In some cases, the insurers paid full price for car windows that Perkins had gotten from auto wrecking yards. One Toyota windshield billed at more than $1,000 actually cost $92. A Lexus windshield that cost $145 was billed at $1,082.

State Farm was tipped off to the scheme by Lynx Services, a third-party administrator that handles glass claims. Lynx became suspicious after a random search of their database turned up an unusually high percentage of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) glass being installed in cars worked on by Autoglass Express.

State Farm investigators began contacting policyholders, inspecting the recently-installed glass, and comparing it to the bills. State Farm turned the case over to the insurance commissioner’s Special Investigations Unit, which obtained search warrants and seized more than 50 boxes of invoices and hard drives belonging to Perkins’ companies.


For more, see the press release we issued when Perkins was charged last year.

Consumer hotline delays -- we're working on it

We are experiencing problems this morning with our toll-free insurance consumer hotline (1-800-562-6900). We believe this resulted from a power failure over the weekend that triggered network problems.

We have a temporary work-around, but callers are experiencing longer-than-usual wait times, and in some cases we cannot connect the call.

Our apologies. We're working to fix this.

Update: 11:54 a.m.: The problem -- which multiple state agencies are having this morning -- means that some of our phone numbers are not able to receive any incoming calls.

Thanks for your patience. We're working on the problem and will get it fixed as soon as we can.

Update: 3:53 p.m.: Still...working...on...it. But a number of our phone lines remain unable to receive incoming calls. If you have a complaint or question, the best thing for the time being is to email us for help or use our online forms for complaints against insurers and agents.

Update: 8:54 a.m. Tuesday: FIXED! Thanks much for your patience.