Making Crime Pay

auto. accident. fraud. AP

California's car culture was first to spawn an agency like the Bureau of Automotive Repair. Its under-cover sleuths, like Warren Samm, have force hundreds of repair cheats to close up shop.

The bureau has inspired other states to follow suit. While California uses stealth, Florida uses muscle.

In early morning raids, Florida fraud fighters round up shop owners, some caught putting spent air bags into cars — a dangerous deception.

"More so than the crimes, it's the safety issues. For money, for $500-600, they're willing to jeopardize the lives of people they don't know," said John Dygone, chief investigator with the Florida Insurance Fraud Department.

A Vancouver woman and her child were killed because a shop replaced her air bags with used ones, criminally filled with foam.

"I've seen cases where they've stuffed rags, I've seen other cases where they've stuffed beer cans just to give it a firm feel," said Bob Love, special agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Protect Yourself
If you're the typical car owner, you may not know much about the mechanics of your vehicle. When it's time for repairs, however, you should know how to locate a reliable shop and a qualified mechanic.

Click here for tips on choosing a repair shop.

Click here for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's consumer information on air bags.
Back in California, Warren Sam and one of his undercover agents are running a sting operation on a northern California body shop, one that's received numerous consumer complaints, to see if they will make honest repairs.

But investigator Warren Sam found the shop had charged for work they hadn't done.

"They were paid to replace this part. All they did was just repair," he said.

Now, the state is moving to revoke the owner's registration.

When Specialty Auto in Redwood City was asked about the charges, the manager refused to answer.

If he can't answer in court, he's out of business, thanks to Warren Samm.

"Yes, it's an expensive proposition but we want to protect the consumers of California from being ripped off by fraudulent body shops," he said.

They say crime doesn't pay, but the truth is, auto fraud is as lucrative as it is dangerous. Putting cheats ot of business is certain to keep Warren Samm in business for years to come.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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