Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said Tuesday that Los Angeles attorney Susana Ragos Chung surrendered on an arrest warrant for her alleged role in a widespread automobile insurance fraud scheme in the Bay Area.
O'Malley said Chung has been charged with 28 felony offenses following a long investigation known as "Phantom Menace" that was conducted jointly by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, the fraud division of the California Department of Insurance and the California Highway Patrol.
Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Blazer said Chung surrendered at a brief hearing in Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward, where she was arraigned. But Chung was expected to be released on $290,000 bail late Tuesday, Blazer said.
Chung is scheduled to return to court on May 28 to enter a plea, he said.
O'Malley said the charges against Chung and her office manager, Ingrid Attillo, allege that for several years she acted as the conduit of fraudulent insurance claims associated with a large number of staged auto accidents in Northern California.
She said the fraud ring included a "capper" who orchestrated the fake accidents by recruiting the drivers and passengers who would say they were in the so-called accidents, the auto body shop willing to falsify repair records and the medical providers willing to falsify medical records.
Once that recruitment and information gathering was complete, it would be forwarded to Chung and she would submit the fraudulent insurance claims to a variety of insurance companies, according to O'Malley.
The capper, Norberto "Chito" Mora, is serving an eight-year prison sentence for his role in the fraud ring, O'Malley said.
According to O'Malley, investigators determined that Chung paid Mora for the cases and then submitted claims on behalf of "clients" whom she had never met or even talked to. When confronted by investigators, many of the participants indicated that they never even knew they had a lawyer, O'Malley said.
She said most of the purported accidents weren't memorialized with a police report, many of them occurred at the same few locations and virtually everyone involved multiple passengers.
O'Malley said most of the so-called accidents led to all the participants going to the same chiropractor, who wasn't their regular doctor, far away from their homes.
The same small stable of chiropractors, three of whom have now been convicted of felony insurance fraud, was repeatedly used in Mora's cases, according to O'Malley.
O'Malley said, "Large insurance fraud schemes are often highly sophisticated and an essential part of such a criminal enterprise is the attorney who acts as a front for the organization by submitting claims on behalf of clients."
She said that since the investigation began in 2006, the district attorney's office has obtained 94 convictions of individual defendants involved in the ring, including 63 felony convictions.
Chung couldn't be reached for comment today.
Her Web site says, "Quality advice, cost-effective solutions and prompt, accessible attorneys are the hallmarks of The Law Offices of Susana Chung."
The site says her firm "has successfully represented over thousands of clients and has recovered millions of dollars for its clients."
"We pride ourselves on our honesty, integrity, detailed knowledge and real-world application of the law," the site says.