Santa Barbara man convicted of insurance fraud for staging 2016 crash

Driver was behind on payments

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A Santa Barbara man faces a maximum of five years in prison after he was convicted of staging a vehicle accident in 2016.

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced that Fred Brown III, 52, was found guilty of defrauding an insurer by a Santa Barbara jury on Friday.

On April 22, 2016, Brown called 911 to report that his 2010 Dodge Charger went over the roadway on East Camino Cielo near Santa Barbara. He told law enforcement that he parked on level ground, turned off the engine and exited the driver’s side door but the Charger rolled off the cliff. He was unable to account for the keys, Dudley said.

Officers spotted the vehicle over 250 feet down the side of the road once the fog had lifted. Investigators rappelled down to the vehicle and discovered that there were no keys, the ignition was in the on position and the air bag had deployed. 

Investigators used the vehicles evidentiary data recorder to learn that the vehicle was on, in drive, and a force was applied to the pedal about five seconds before the airbags deployed.

During the investigation, it was revealed that Brown had taken out a title loan on the vehicle and had fallen behind on payments. 

Brown was eventually charged for insurance fraud.

“This guilty verdict should also serve as a clear message to individuals who think they can commit the crime of auto insurance fraud and avoid prosecution. This is a crime that effects every auto insurance consumer because insurers pass along these losses through higher premiums," Dudley said in a press release.

Brown is scheduled to be sentenced in Santa Barbara Superior Court on May 1.

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