Final defendant in insurance fraud case is sentenced

The last of four people convicted in a scam to take an Indiana man’s van from Nogales, Ariz. to Nogales, Sonora, claim that it was stolen and file a fraudulent insurance claim, was sentenced at Santa Cruz County Superior Court.

Victor Samuel Duran, 35, of Nogales, was sentenced to a year in prison on Jan. 21 after he pleaded no contest to a Class 4 felony car theft offense. He also received a year in prison for another unrelated Class 4 felony conviction, this one for aggravated DUI.

Court records show that on Dec. 4, 2017, Ryan Grimes, 38, of Fort Wayne, Ind. told a Nogales Police Department officer that his wheelchair conversion van had been stolen the night before from the hotel where he and his cousin William Jeremy McNeal, also of Fort Wayne, Ind., were staying.

When the officer reviewed the hotel’s surveillance video, he saw two men dressed in dark clothing come out of the hotel, walk toward the van and get inside. The hotel’s bartender recognized the men as Duran and Daniel Alberto Vivian of Rio Rico, who had been at the bar with a man in a wheelchair – who turned out to be Grimes.

After another NPD officer located Duran and Vivian and brought them in for questioning, Vivian reportedly said he had been recruited by Duran for the job. The pair met with two men at the hotel and one of the men, who was in a wheelchair, told Duran to take the van into Mexico so he could report it stolen and file an insurance claim.

Grimes and McNeil were each convicted on fraud charges and sentenced in January 2019 to three years of probation. Vivian pleaded guilty to a Class 4 felony car theft offense and was sentenced in December 2018 to three years of intensive probation supervision.

In the separate DUI incident, Duran was approached by an NPD officer after he stopped the vehicle he was driving shortly after midnight on Jan. 19, 2018.

Records show that Duran initially gave the officer someone else’s name and Social Security number. But after the officer arrested him on suspicion of drunk driving, a records checked showed that he was not the person he claimed to be.

When Duran finally admitted his true identity, it turned out that his driver’s license had been suspended.

A breathalyzer test reportedly showed his blood-alcohol level to be approximately .15.

In a letter to the judge, Duran blamed his problems on alcohol and drug addiction, and vowed to get sober.

Car thief busted after crossing border into Mexico

On May 6, 2019, court records show, Jorge Alberto Barraza Castillo of Rio Rico tried to drive a stolen truck into Mexico through the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry.

However, Mexican authorities wouldn’t let him into the country and sent him back to the port, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers detained him and notified the Nogales Police Department. The responding NPD officer noticed that the keyhole on the trucks’s driver-side door was damaged, as was the vehicle’s ignition switch.

According to his pre-sentence report, Barraza initially claimed he had paid his friend $100 to use the truck to move some items. However, after he was arrested, he ultimately pleaded guilty to a Class 5 felony car theft offense and was sentenced on Jan. 13 at Santa Cruz County Superior Court.

Judge Thomas Fink sentenced him to six months in prison, with all of that time covered by the 251 days credit the judge gave him for his pre-sentencing incarceration.

The sentence also requires Barraza to pay $18,867 in restitution to his victim.

Employee stole $22K from business

The former office manager of a Rio Rico-based produce company was sentenced to four years of probation after he stole more than $22,000 from his employer.

Adrian Ramos, 50, of Nogales, was sentenced on Jan. 21 by Judge Thomas Fink of Santa Cruz County Superior Court after he pleaded guilty to a Class 4 felony theft charge.

Ramos’ probation sentence also included six months in jail with work-release permission, and requirements that he pay $22,290 in restitution and perform 60 hours of community service.

According to Ramos’ pre-sentence report, the owners of the victimized company told a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy on Sept. 8, 2018 that they had discovered a fraud involving one of their employees. The employee had confessed to the fraud and was terminated.

The owners told the deputy they had discovered 14 checks issued for unknown charges, and Ramos had deposited the funds into his personal account. When the deputy interviewed Ramos, he reportedly admitted to the theft.

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