Kathleen 'Kathy' Oberst is set to appear in court Thursday, facing accusations of auto insurance fraud.
Oberst was arrested Wednesday, a day after being added to the Washington State Insurance Fraud Most Wanted List. She was wanted for failing to appear in court to face auto insurance fraud charges.
Kara Klotz, the Communications Manager of the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (the same agency that puts out the most-wanted list), said the effects of insurance fraud cost hundreds for innocent individuals and families.
"The big consequence is that premiums go up for every family that has insurance. Our estimates are $400-$700 per year for every family is what it costs," Klotz said.
"The National Insurance Crime Bureau, which is one of our partners, they estimate that up to 10% of all insurance claims are fraudulent. When insurance companies are paying out more claims, that's one of the factors when they set their rates for premiums. Every time they're paying more money in claims, all of our costs go up. Plus, they have to pay their investigators - there are costs involved besides claims," she said.
So, what did Oberst do to get herself on the most-wanted list? According to Washington's Insurance Commisioner:
- Dec. 29. 2015: Oberst purchased a Progressive insurance policy for her Honda Civic.
- Jan. 7, 2016: Oberst reports the car stolen
- Jan. 7 2016: Hours after reporting the car stolen, Spokane police found the car several miles away with extensive damage to the front of the car (estimated cost from damage: $8,800)
- Police later discover the car was in a collision on Dec. 17, 2015 (12 days before buying car insurance)
Oberst's charges include attempted first-degree theft, filing a false insurance claim and making a false claim with a public servant.
Klotz said this type of insurance fraud is "not uncommon."
"The biggest, most frequent case we see is people who let their insurance lapse on their cars and get into an accident, then say, "Uh oh, I need insurance." So, they reinstate their insurance, then submit the claim and falsify details like when it happened, how it happened," she said.
"People think it's not a big deal, but it is. It can be a felony... Don't be tempted to do something like this because it could follow you around for the rest of your life," Klotz said.
This is a a developing story and will be updated accordingly.