By Maxwell C. Myrhum
WOODLAND – A local man is being prosecuted as a result of the purchase of a used vehicle and the manipulation of documents for insurance, with possible help from his girlfriend.
In a preliminary hearing the defendant, Andrew Smith, is being charged with felony conspiracy to commit a crime, false or fraudulent insurance claim, false or fraudulent automobile insurance claim, and preparing a false statement to insurers. These felony counts stem from the defendant’s legal purchasing of a used car from “JT” and alleged actions to alter information about the car in order to receive insurance on the vehicle.
The witness called by the prosecution was Investigator Kristine Fitzgerald with the automobile insurance fraud division of the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office
Fitzgerald testified that the vehicle in question is a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder that was purchased by Smith and his girlfriend, Mary Colby, on July 31, 2017, from the seller JT. When contacted by Fitzgerald, JT described how the car had clear damage to multiple parts of the exterior and radiator, and that this was known to the buyers. JT also elaborated on how Colby was seeking a title to document their new ownership of the vehicle.
After consulting JT, Fitzgerald then contacted Smith on his cellphone. One particular phone call was described as rushed, as the defendant was driving to a local junkyard before they closed.
From this phone call, the court became aware of an alleged accident that occurred with the car on an interstate road just outside of Sacramento; the alleged accident was the result of the hood of the vehicle coming undone, obstructing Smith’s vision, resulting in a subsequent collision with the guardrails as he attempted to pull over. The police were not called by the defendant. However, the defendant claimed in this call that he was unaware of any insurance claims being put forward regarding this accident.
Next, Fitzgerald’s phone calls and emails with Colby retell the accident as well as her alleged pursuit of a claim for the car’s damage afterward.
The insurance claim to Geico for the car was made online, allegedly by Colby’s mother. However, the complexity of this case is that this alleged claim request was made in Smith’s name and driver’s license, only to be revoked some days later by him. On top of this, the offense appears to be that the pair attempted to receive insurance money for damages prior to the alleged accident.
Also, the vehicle in question is no longer available for examination, as it was sold and recycled by Simms Metal Recycling. But, pictures taken of the car by the metal recycling establishment do exist.
The involvement of Colby in the request of this claim is questionable, as it is unclear whether she was present while her mother allegedly underwent the process. But Colby’s alleged involvement with the manipulation of the car’s title is more clear.
Investigator Fitzgerald obtained a picture of the title from Colby during their communication, and in doing so noticed that there possibly was an issue with the date. When confronted about the date, Colby admitted to Fitzgerald that she indeed had changed the date of the purchase of their car on July 31 to one in late August.
The admission of manipulating their documents was due to the pair being concerned that they did not have insurance on their vehicle.
The issue with the case made apparent that, although all the documents are in the name of Andrew Smith, the prosecution also seeks to find Mary Colby responsible for aiding the automobile insurance fraud. Also, Colby’s mother has been contacted multiple times by Investigator Fitzgerald over some time but is seemingly unavailable for testimony regarding her actions.
The prosecution looks to find both Smith and Colby answerable to the counts against them, but, with all the evidence in Smith’s name, Colby’s defense suggested that she had no part in this issue.
Judge David Reed has found that there is enough evidence to form a strong suspicion to try Smith, and possibly Colby, on all counts.
An arraignment has been for Feb. 25, 2020, at 9 a.m.