For Immediate Release: January 25, 2011

Arrests Made in Alleged Three County Staged Auto Accident Ring

RALEIGH -- Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin today announced the arrest of 10 individuals involved in an alleged staged auto accident ring operating in Nash, Edgecombe and Franklin counties. Warrants have been issued for six other individuals believed to be involved.

Department of Insurance criminal investigators allege that brothers Howard Earl Whitfield, Jr., and Douglas Whitfield (warrant issued for arrest) were the ringleaders in conspiring with family members and others to stage auto accidents in an effort to defraud insurance companies. Investigators accuse them of filing insurance claims for accidents that never actually occurred and of physically staging accidents in which one suspect intentionally hit another suspect's vehicle from behind.

As a result of the efforts of the alleged group, Universal Insurance, Farm Bureau Insurance of North Carolina, GMAC Insurance, Nationwide Insurance and Geico Insurance paid out a total of $76,217.48 in claims between August 2009 and January 2010.

Arrests and charges to date are as follows:

Ryan Craig Bobbitt, 23, of 1029 Compass Creek Road, Rocky Mount, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense, insurance fraud and conspiracy, as well as arrested on other outstanding warrants. He was placed under a $40,000 secured bond in Nash County.

John David Hoggard Jr., 32, of 104 Williams St., Tarboro, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense, insurance fraud and attempting to obtain property by false pretense, and two felony counts of conspiracy. He was placed under a $15,000 unsecured bond in Edgecombe County.

Billie Whitfield Hollis, 44, of 165 White Oak Road, Rocky Mount, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense, insurance fraud and conspiracy. She was placed under a $15,000.00 unsecured bond in Edgecombe County.

Virginia Janosik Howlett, 56, of 575 Tobacco Road, Rocky Mount, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense, insurance fraud, conspiracy and probation violation. She was placed under a $35,000 unsecured bond in Nash County.

Steven Tyrell Jones, 23, of 1924 Hunter Hill Road, Rocky Mount, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense, insurance fraud and conspiracy. He was placed under a $20,000 unsecured bond in Nash County.

Leandrous Lee Murray, 26, of 615 Piedmont Ave., Rocky Mount, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense, insurance fraud and conspiracy. He was placed under a $20,000 unsecured bond in Nash County.

Renee Jones Naccarato, 36, of 1939 James Road, Nashville, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense and insurance fraud and three counts of conspiracy. She was placed under a $50,000 secured bond in Nash County.

Kristy Turner, 27, of 201 Thunder Road, Rocky Mount, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense, insurance fraud and conspiracy. She was placed under a $20,000 unsecured bond in Nash County.

Howard Buddy Whitfield, III, 18, of 165 White Oak Road, Rocky Mount, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense, insurance fraud and conspiracy. He was placed under a $15,000 unsecured bond in Edgecombe County.

Howard Earl Whitfield, Jr., 45, of 91 Bluestone Lane, Tarboro, is charged with one count each of obtaining property by false pretense, insurance fraud and attempting to obtain property by false pretense, and two felony counts of conspiracy. He was placed under a $15,000 unsecured bond in Edgecombe County.

These arrests are the result of cooperation and joint investigation by the Department of Insurance, the Nash County Sheriff's Office and the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office.

The Department of Insurance employs 20 sworn law enforcement officers dedicated to investigating claims of insurance fraud. In 2010, these criminal investigators have seen more than 402 cases successfully closed with more than $21.1 million in restitution and recoveries, 88 criminal convictions and 126 arrests.

An estimated 10 cents of every dollar paid in premiums goes toward the payment of fraudulent claims. To report suspected fraud, contact the Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division at 919-807-6840. Callers may remain anonymous. Information is also available at www.ncdoi.com.

--NCDOI--