Best of the Worst

If you think your job is tough, imagine what it’s like for Mercury Insurance’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) employees, who pursue arsonists, thieves, and other criminals on a daily basis. But they aren’t cops: these specially trained individuals work to combat insurance fraud and uncover thousands of false claims every year, saving the company and their policy holders millions of dollars. Since its foundation in 1978, the unit has seen a plethora of fraudulent claims, but a few have stood out to them as particularly ludicrous. Here, we count down the top 3 strangest insurance fraud cases the SIU ever faced:


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The insured in question had been struggling for some time to sell his mobile home, which was insured for $160,000. Conveniently, after several months without a sale, it was burned to the ground by an arsonist, entitling the insured to quite a bit of money.

Understandably, Mercury’s SIU thought this “arson” sounded a bit too good to be true.

They began an investigation, quickly locating the arsonist, who turned out to be the insured’s next door neighbor–he had been severely burned during the crime and arrested soon afterwards. Investigators then obtained the name of a middleman, a 22 year old who was a friend of the insured, and discovered that he had hired the arsonist. Before the SIU could interrogate him, however, he died in a suspicious motorcycle accident after a night of drinking with none other but the insured.

The arsonist was sentenced to 16 years in prison, during which time he implicated the insured and exposed the plot via recorded phone calls. The insured ended up with a lengthy prison sentence, and, needless to say, his claim was denied.






The insured’s car lightly grazed a stationary public bus. Neither vehicle sustained any damage, though one of the bus’s passengers claimed that she suffered significant neck and back injuries.

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Sensing something fishy, the SIU uncovered video footage of the event from a surveillance camera on the bus. Sure enough, the footage shows the woman in question standing upright for several seconds and flopping onto the floor with a clearly faked injury. Her case was dismissed by the court.





An LAPD detective reported his expensive BMW was stolen from a Los Angeles strip mall. Police responders became suspicious when the detective’s nephew arrived on the scene mere seconds after they did. Suspicions deepened when the detective suffered a gunshot wound under ambiguous circumstances not long after the theft. He claimed that both crimes were gang retaliation for his work, but the real story was quite different.

Working with the LAPD, the SIU was able to prove that the detective had orchestrated everything, including the shooting. The investigation revealed that the detective was more than $1 million in debt and faked the carjacking to collect on his insurance policy. He later shot himself in an attempt to bolster his weak story. He pled guilty to all charges, was forced to pay restitution, and lost his job at the LAPD.


Pretty crazy, huh? Some people will go to any lengths to scam insurance companies out of money, but the SIU is on the case!

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