CHP Sergeant Cracks Code to Insurance Fraud Ring

LOS ANGELES -- A ledger book filled with cryptic entries was decoded by a California Highway Patrol sergeant, and was the key to breaking up a $1 million insurance fraud ring and the jailing of a Sherman Oaks attorney, prosecutors said Thursday.

Hamid Taghizadeh, 46, was arrested without incident at his Van Nuys home by investigators from the California Department of Insurance, according to the District Attorney's Office.

He is charged with 86 felony counts, including filing false and fraudulent claims, receiving or offering compensation for referrals, insurance fraud, grand theft of personal property and failure to file income tax returns.

The investigation was launched in July 2004 after a California Highway Patrol officer pulled over a person believed to be staging traffic accidents, officials said.

Two sets of search warrants were executed soon afterward, and the seized items were unsealed two years later following a failed attempt by Taghizadeh seeking the return of the ledger book and other property, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Authorities said the "capping ledger" contained a cryptic code with numeric sequences such as "10-1" and "10-1-12." A CHP sergeant eventually broke the code and determined that the code represented the first and last letters of the cappers' names, officials said.

An arraignment date for Taghizadeh not yet been set.

Also named in the case are Jose Miguel Ayala, 23, of North Hollywood, who is charged with 83 felony counts; Claudia Belen Cota, 32, of Sylmar, who is charged with 53 felony counts; Zekrollah Taghizadeh, 53, of North Hills, who is charged with 32 felony counts; Yousef Rushdi Helo, 43, of Simi Valley, who is charged with nine felony counts; and Bassam Michael Naber, 48, of Canyon Country, who is charged with six felony counts.

Prosecutors allege that Ayala netted about $191,000 in capping fees over a 10-month period, and that Cota -- an administrative assistant at Hamid Taghizadeh's law office -- received more than $83,000 in capping fees over a two-year period.

Zekrollah Taghizadeh is accused of helping his younger brother run the alleged insurance fraud scheme, while Helo and Naber -- both chiropractors --are accused of creating false documents, according to the District Attorney's Office.

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