A Tampa company has some explaining to do after being hit with a lawsuit filed by attorneys for GEICO Insurance Company and subsidiaries.
Defendants, Shazam Auto Glass LLC, and its owner, Sean Martineau, have been accused of allegedly defrauding GEICO to the tune of $340,000. The lawsuit claims Martineau’s auto glass operation is a shell company that charges GEICO for unperformed work.
The lawsuit also claims that Shazam contractors use incentives to encourage customers to replace their windshields and sometimes ask customers to increase their insurance coverage for free windshield replacement.
According to key allegations in the case, Shazam’s workforce is driven by contractors who pitch the company, on foot, going door-to-door or approaching potential customers in parking lots. Reportedly, these agents sometimes promote cost-free windshield replacement to people with comprehensive insurance coverage, and offer incentives, like gift cards, to people who agree.
In the most insidious claims, these agents are reported to forge signatures sometimes approving work, even when none is performed, and then allegedly bill it to GEICO, according to the lawsuit.
Outside of contractor relationships, the plaintiffs claim the defendant has no employees, no inventory, and no installation equipment.
If these claims are valid, Shazam isn’t the only company that works in this way. The lawsuit suggests that this filing is another set of shots fired in a “quiet war between insurers and windshield firms” that results in thousands of lawsuits being filed against fraudulent shell companies each year.
In a news release, GEICO said this lawsuit is the latest in a string of filings that stems from their “zero tolerance” approach to fraud. The previous cases were filed against Arizona defendants, and this is the first to hit a Tampa business since GEICO’s recent push to identify fraud.
Tara Carthew, Assistant Vice President of Claims in GEICO’s Lakeland office, said in a statement, “GEICO is committed to protecting our customers from the negative effect that insurance fraud has on premiums. These incidents of fraud hurt consumers in Florida because they cause premiums to increase, and we continue to pursue them with zero tolerance.”
It remains to be seen the outcome of the lawsuit, but consumers should stay conscientious of how they approach vehicle repairs, ensuring they work with reputable vendors.