WESTERN STATES AUTO THEFT
INVESTIGATORS ASSOCIATION
SOUTHERN CHAPTER
TRAINING MEETING / LUNCHEON

March 16, 2000 - General Motors Training Center - Burbank


President Gary Labb spoke about using the GM Training Center instead of the Airtel Hotel.  Gary requested that Jerry Park lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. Jerry is an active member of WSATI and works for the San Diego PD.  Gary thanked the other WSATI Board Members for their hard work and effort for the March Meeting.  Gary spoke briefly about the 2001 Conference. Gary also thanked Richard Knapp, our legal council, and presented Richard with his official WSATI nameplate. 

Gary introduced CHP Investigator Randy Ballin.  Randy spoke about the changes in the California blue tag system of VIN identification.  Decal stickers will be manufactured to apply to the area where the original factory VIN was previously located.  Hopefully this additional sticker will help avoid confusion and needless vehicle impounding. WSATI was instrumental in the pushing through the request for this additional auxiliary sticker.

Gary introduced and acknowledged WSATI Past Presidents in attendance; Randy Ballin, Dave Dempsey, Terry Cramer, Carol VanNatter and Joan Pitts.

Those in attendance took turn standing and introducing themselves and identify- ing their agency or company.

Dave Dempsey brought the new 2000 NICB Vehicle Identification and Commercial Vehicle Manuals for distribution.

Gary introduced the meeting's first speaker, David Rubio from the California's State Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR).  David is one of fourteen investigators assigned to investigate auto body repair fraud.  David stated that there are 190 BAR Representatives Statewide. He stated there are two teams in California; the state is divided into a northern and southern team.  They are called out frequently on consumer complaints regarding frauds during the repair of body damage to vehicles.  David stated that the consumers are usually ‘left out of the loop’ on the repair of their own vehicles and this creates most of the problems.

His cases are usually submitted to the State's Attorney General's Office for prosecution.  Fraudulent repair schemes amount to approximately five billion dollars a year, with consistently 39% of the total bill related to repairs not performed.  David spoke about where the complaints originate, the fines and penalties that have been levied against violators. 

As of 1998 consumers must be notified if OEM or Aftermarket repair parts will be used.  Gary Labb mentioned that in the past OCATT has used BAR as an effective enforcement tool during 2805 VC Inspections.

David left copies of the most common rules and regulations that repair shops violate. David stated he could be contacted at (714) 680-7851 for additional information.  Gary thanked David and provided him with a gift from WSATI for his presentation.

Gary then introduced the next speaker, Sam Massey from Supplemental Restraint Systems (SRS) on the subject of Air Bags.  Sam spoke about how air bags relate to fraud and theft.  SRS specializes in the installation and replacement of the air bag systems.  SRS is receiving numerous requests for information on traffic collisions involving air bag deployment and other air bag related issues.  Sam instructed the group on the correct procedure to determine whether the bag was deployed during a traffic collision.

Sam also covered the recently passed California legislation regarding the danger and prohibition of  “dummy air bags” and stated we are the only states to have such a law. The law prevents the repair and installation of previously used air bags.  Additionally fraud scheme involving the switching of undeployed air bags with previously deployed bags was mentioned.  Sam stated that there is a company that exist that actually rents out previously deployed air bags to body shops to facilitate the fraud against the insurance companies.  Some body shops are also cutting open good air bags and pulling them out to make them look as though they were deployed.  This allows the body shop to bill the insurance company for the replacement of the entire SRS in a vehicle.  SRS personnel have found over seventy occurrences of this type of fraud. 

Sam gave several techniques investigators can use to check and see if there was an actual air bag deployment. Dave Dempsey then related a story about a salvage vehicle where the body shop was attempting to deceive an insurance company for the replacement of the air bag.  Sam assisted Dave and was able to prove that the claim was false and prevent the payment of the fraudulent repair. 

Sam set up a display of an air bag in a specially designed jig and deployed it so everyone could experience the sound, smell and sight of an actual air bag deployment. Make no mistake, when that air bag went off it was very loud and there is a distinctive odor. He also told me that within three minutes after an air bag deploys, there is a tremendous amount of heat that builds up around the bag canister.  There is enough heat to boil water and it lasts for 15-20 minutes, so caution was advised.  Additionally he advised against putting water on an exploded air bag as the water causes a chemical reaction which creates another chemical that does become very hazardous to your health.   Sam also stated that air bags can be safe to handle, but the shunt should always be put over the exposed terminal.  He emphasized that this is important especially on Honda air bags.  The shunt covers the exposed terminals and is usually located on the backside of the air bag.

Sam mentioned that there is no such thing available on the market as a ‘second’ or blemished air bag from the manufacturer.  Any air bag that is not first run is a “must return” item.  Anyone who represents such an item has probably obtained it illegally. A major receiver of stolen air bags in Detroit was taken down, subsequently air bag thefts in the city declined by over 90%.  Sam was thanked for his presentation and given a gift from WSATI President Gary Labb.

The Santa Maria Barbecue Company (a Lou Koven "find") catered the lunch and most everybody commented that it was the best lunch that WSATI has ever had.  Barbecued tri-tip, chicken, baked beans, garlic bread, two salads and dessert were on the menu. If you went away hungry it's your own fault!  Hopefully we will have them back again soon.  They can be located in Culver City.  Call them at 310 559-5709.

Even though Lou Koven did such a fine job with the Santa Maria Barbecue Company, it could not save him from the Bent Screwdriver Award.  It seems that Secretary Lou forgot to forward the January minutes to Gary for inclusion on the web site, or to Carol VanNatter for "snail mail" delivery of the WSATI newsletter.

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