Hurricane business owner faces felony charge for allegedly hijacking AAA through fraudulent claims – St George News
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ST. GEORGE – A Hurricane business owner has been charged with defrauding an insurance company following a more than a year-long investigation by the Utah Department of Insurance Fraud.
The case concerns Matthew David Wetzel, 45, who has been charged with a second degree felony for filing a bogus or fraudulent insurance claim, according to the complaint filed by Assistant Attorney General Michael Scott with the prosecutor’s office General of Utah.
The complaint was brought by Brett DeCow, an investigator in the Fraud Division of the Utah Department of Insurance, who alleges that Wetzel defrauded AAA Insurance Company over $ 15,000 in misrepresentation over the course of 19 months – from January 2019 to August 2020.
The investigation was launched after the Utah Insurance Fraud Division received a complaint about Winder Towing in Hurricane, a company the defendant has owned since 2013.
During the follow-up to the report, the investigator discovered numerous claims submitted to AAA by Winder Towing, a number of which involved discrepancies as to the nature of the services provided, the towing destinations, the dates of service and the vehicles involved in the service. claims. .
The court documents also described a number of claims, including four towing claims that were submitted to AAA between May 2019 and June 2020, involving a known associate of the defendant and Winder Towing. Three of the claims involved vehicles that the claims claim were towed to Salt Lake City on different dates, for which AAA paid Winder more than $ 2,800.
During the investigation, authorities said the vehicles in question had not been towed to Salt Lake City.
In another incident, investigators discovered that one of Winder’s trucks was allegedly used to deliver building materials to an individual, and instead of being paid by the individual who ordered the delivery, the defendant allegedly submitted three separate claims to AAA.
Investigators also became aware of a claim paid by AAA for $ 437 involving a car that was allegedly towed from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Washington County in September 2019. Digging deeper, DeCow reportedly discovered that the salvage of the vehicle in Las Vegas had never happened.
Instead, according to the complaint, someone contacted Winder to have their broken down truck towed from Apple Valley to their home in Washington County, and even though the customer did not have AAA coverage in the area. At the time, the defendant would have told them to sign up for a membership and then they would wait a few days before filing the claim.
The last example listed in the indictment documents involved a utility vehicle being towed from Sand Hollow State Park, a work that was eventually uploaded to the accused’s Youtube channel – the “Matt’s Off Road Recovery” channel which has nearly a million subscribers.
In the footage, Wetzel is seen hauling the UTV and chatting with the owners after recovery. As a matter of policy, however, McCow noted that the AAA does not cover all-terrain vehicles, including UTVs.
It was during the investigation that McCow learned that instead of listing the vehicle as an all-terrain vehicle in the AAA claim, the defendant listed it as a truck that was towed from Hurricane Park to Bluffdale, located almost 290 miles away. AAA paid over $ 430 on the claim.
In December, the investigator contacted Wetzel and during a telephone conversation, McCow said, the defendant allegedly took responsibility for the claims made to AAA, saying they were “false in the front, but fair in the face. ‘back “.
Regarding the delivery of building materials, the defendant said on the call that he provided a number of services to this person, including lockdown services and towing calls. Then, after helping the individual on several occasions, according to the report, the defendant asked him to file a claim with the AAA.
The defendant also allegedly described arrangements or similar circumstances involving a number of other people, in which the services were provided but not immediately billed to the person or to AAA. At one point, the defendant would ask the person to bring a claim to cover the various services provided by Winder Towing, according to the report.
Addressing the investigator, the accused claimed that “he had never given a job that was not related to a legitimate service,” McCow noted in the document.
In total, the complaint, filed October 28, indicates that AAA paid Winder Towing over $ 15,000 over the 19 months.
Wetzel is due to appear in 5th District Court on December 7.
St. George News reached out to the defendant for comment and his attorney, Jason Velez, responded to the request saying his client had served the residents of Hurricane and southern Utah his entire life with ” selfless acts of giving back to the community and coming to the aid of all who have needed him.
Velez added that Wetzel is working with the attorney general’s office to clear up any potential misunderstanding that may have resulted in these current charges.
Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the posting of arrest reservation photos until a conviction is obtained.
This report is based on statements from court records, the police or other stakeholders and may not contain all of the findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty by a court or as otherwise decided by a trier of fact.
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