News: 2010 Press Release
For Release: February 8, 2010
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Insurance Commissioner Poizner Announces Simi Valley Extended Family Arrested for Allegedly Falsifying More Than $1.4 Million in Insurance Claims
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced today that four individuals were arrested yesterday by California Department of Insurance (CDI) detectives on multiple felony counts of insurance fraud and grand theft. Michael R. Persky, 42, and his girlfriend, Shelley L. Dunkel, 39, both of Malibu, as well as Dunkel's mother, Carol A. Dunkel, 64, of Simi Valley were taken into custody at CDI's Valencia Regional Office. An associate, Fredy Buraye, Jr., 33, of Simi Valley was arrested at his residence.
"Insurance fraud victimizes us all through higher insurance rates," said Commissioner Poizner. "We simply cannot tolerate insurance fraud, and will work with our local partners to prosecute these crimes to the fullest extent of the law."
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting this case. If convicted, the four could be sentenced 3-5 years in state prison, fined a maximum of $50,000 in fines, and paying court-ordered restitution to their insurance carriers.
Bail was set in the following amounts: Persky ($300,000), Buraye, Jr. ($225,000), Shelley Dunkel ($225,000), and Carol Dunkel ($25,000).
The year-long investigation originated from a March 2008 suspected fraudulent claim involving the alleged theft of Persky's motor home. After his insurance carrier, National Interstate Insurance Co., settled the claim for approximately $80,000, CDI received information indicating that Persky was, in fact, in possession of the motor home. Pursuant to a search warrant executed in February 2009, CDI detectives seized the vehicle at a Simi Valley business owned by Persky.
During the course of the investigation into the alleged theft of the motor home, detectives uncovered several other suspected fraudulent claims involving the Dunkels and Buraye. Three such separate claims involved the alleged theft of personal property including furniture, bath fixtures and artwork, purportedly individually-owned by Shelley Dunkel, Carol Dunkel and Buraye. In a claim made to Stonington Insurance Co., Buraye claimed that his property was stolen from an Antelope Valley storage facility owned by Shelley Dunkel, on August 22, 2007. He was eventually paid approximately $150,000 for the claim. Shelley Dunkel and Carol Dunkel made claims to State Farm Insurance Co. and Farmers Insurance Co., respectively, for an alleged October 26, 2008, burglary at a Lancaster home owned by Carol Dunkel. Both claimed approximately $600,000 worth of personal property was stolen. CDI's investigation into these three claims turned up documentation suggesting that each individual claimed exactly the same items as being stolen. However, several of the allegedly stolen items for which all three claims were made were observed at Persky's Simi Valley residence during the aforementioned February 2009 search warrant.
National Interstate Insurance Co., Stonington Insurance Co., State Farm Insurance Co., and Farmers Insurance Co. assisted CDI in this investigation.
Commissioner Poizner oversees 16 CDI Enforcement Branch regional offices throughout the state. Approximately 2,000 insurance fraud-related arrests have been made by the Department of Insurance's enforcement division since Commissioner Poizner took office in 2007 – more arrests than have been made during any other two year period, under any previous insurance commissioner.
Please visit the Department of Insurance Web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Callers from out of state, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.
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