SHASTA COUNTY, Calif. – Officials said a Redding man turned himself in after being charged with nine felony counts of insurance fraud for allegedly attempting to obtain an unearned insurance payout of over $43,000 following the Carr Fire. Even though, he was set to receive over a million dollars for his properly insured property.
Investigators identified the man as 64-year-old Stephen Cortopassi.
“This alleged crime comes at the expense of wildfire survivors throughout the state,” Insurance Commissioner, Ricardo Lara said. “Many wildfire survivors lost everything they owned and it’s crucial the Department of Insurance works with insurers to get them on the road to recovery as quickly as possible. My department has helped to obtain millions of dollars in legitimate claims for wildfire survivors and there is no place for those who want to cheat the system for a bigger payout than they are entitled to.”
The Department of Insurance said Cortopassi was evacuated on July 27, 2018. They said he was notified his residence and vehicles in Redding were all destroyed in the Carr Fire. In addition to his home, he had four vehicles and a detached garage on the property during the fire.
His four vehicles were estimated to have a total value of $43,060, officials said.
The following day, July 28, as the Carr Fire continued to burn, Cortopassi spoke with his insurance broker and purchased a new policy on one of the vehicles, even though that vehicle was destroyed in the fire, investigators said.
Cortopassi waited for three weeks to file a claim on the new automobile policies with his insurer, and said the vehicles were destroyed August 9, 2018, two weeks after the actual loss, investigators said.
Cortopassi received over one million dollars for his properly insured property. However, his insurer notified the Department of Insurance of the suspected fraud before paying out the additional $43,060 that Cortopassi attempted to collect, according to authorities.
Cortopassi is scheduled to appear in court on March 2, 2020.