Father, son involved in 37 traffic crashes charged with insurance fraud
The driver was making a lane change at 15th Avenue and 48th Street South in Fargo.
She looked carefully before making the maneuver, but as she negotiated the lane change, another driver was "suddenly there," and a collision occurred.
The driver making the sudden appearance, according to court papers describing the crash, was Sead Mustafic, who filed an insurance claim following the November 2008 incident and was paid $4,278.
It was one of 27 traffic crashes Mustafic was involved in between July 2008 and June 2010, according to papers filed in Cass County District Court accusing Mustafic, 43, and his son, Senad Mustafic, 24, of defrauding insurance companies of more than $10,000.
Both men are charged with illegally conducting an enterprise and theft of property, Class B felonies.
Sead Mustafic is also charged with a Class C felony count of insurance fraud, while Senad Mustafic faces a misdemeanor count of insurance fraud.
According to documents filed with the court:
Joe Pittman began working as a special investigator with the North Dakota Insurance Department in December 2009, taking on existing cases that included a referral from Geico Insurance from June 2009.
The case related to a crash involving Sead Mustafic. The insurance company believed that damage to Mustafic's vehicle appeared to have been added after the crash, possibly by rubbing the paint with a brick.
Pittman, the former chief of police at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, collected information from a number of insurance investigators and found that between July 2008 and June 2010, the father and son were involved in 37 crashes - 27 for the father, Sead Mustafic, and 10 for his son, Senad Mustafic.
Most of the incidents were lane-change type crashes in which the other driver would normally be considered the at-fault driver, the court papers state.
Other drivers involved in the crashes were either women between the ages of 16 and 30 or a mix of men and women age 50 to 90, according to the court documents.
Many of the crashes occurred within a one-mile radius of interstate interchanges at 45th Street and 13th Avenue in Fargo.
A crash reconstruction expert with the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Trooper Matthew Brown, identified 16 insurance cases involving either Sead Mustafic or Senad Mustafic in which damage to a vehicle was inconsistent with the accident description, court documents state.
Many of the incidents involved damage claims of between $1,000 and $7,000.
The court papers quote a statement from Trooper Brown in which he said:
"Considering each of these cases individually, along with the totality of the circumstances, it would appear that [Sead Mustafic and Senad Mustafic are] most likely causing these minor crashes intentionally, intentionally causing further damage to the vehicles after the crash and filing insurance claims for the damages fraudulently and for financial gain."
'Evidence of fraud'
The court papers describe a traffic incident from July 2008 in which a driver was making lane changes on 13th Avenue near 27th Street South in Fargo.
The driver, identified by the initials O.C., was in the left lane intending to change two lanes to the right.
Senad Mustafic was in the middle lane.
"O.C. successfully changed to the middle lane in front of Senad," the court papers state.
"When O.C. started to change into the right lane Senad sped up, changing to the right lane, positioning his vehicle so that O.C. would run into him," the court documents state.
In that case, Senad Mustafic provided a statement to Progressive Insurance, apparently his own insurance company, describing the crash.
Both insurance companies in that case, Progressive and Auto-Owners, denied the claim, and the case went to arbitration.
Auto-Owners was ordered to pay 100 percent of damages because its client was changing lanes. It paid Senad Mustafic $3,207, court papers say.
Trooper Brown determined in that case that damage to the hood of Senad Mustafic's vehicle was inconsistent with the accident description and evidence of insurance fraud.
North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm said Sead Mustafic was being held in the Cass County Jail on Thursday night pending a court appearance.
Senad Mustafic was not in custody, but Hamm said it was his understanding that a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
Hamm said he was proud of the collaborative effort between his office and law enforcement, including the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the Cass County State's Attorney's Office.
Hamm also said he was proud of Pittman.
"He's been doing a very good job with all sorts of investigations that are at different stages. This is just one of them," Hamm said.