Source: Auto Theft Claim SIU Investigation, EUO Consultant. Court Qualified Auto Theft/Forensic Expert Witness, Vehicle Fire Origin and Cause Instructor. Serving nationwide and Canada.
In California due to how I handled a criminal case against an expert, I was coined with a nickname. The attorney had stated he just needed a couple points hammered home. Well, I over did it as an overachiever–LOL .The name I was given was: “Sledge Hammer!”
There is no bragging here and my court record reflects that. I am forced to oppose what is in my opinion very unqualified experts!
Insurance companies, you are with me or not. Makes no never mind to me! Over the last 20+ years I have commonly refuted the insurance experts in court, illustrating they could not prove anything they concluded based on fact. We offer services to insurance companies.
Is there a definitive way of determing the determination of the last key used in a reported stolen vehicle? Absolutely! When at the time of the exam, the key is inserted into the ignition. 100% certainty in that case!
Now, I have pivoted. I am tired of the lies and deception in my opinion, put forh as fact by the all knowing insurance forensic expert. It seems the longer I am in this business, more charlatans are brought forward as forensic experts inferring that the reported stolen vehicle was last driven with the insured’s key. All based on NET OPINION and not differential diagnoses. In other words, their opinions are based on speculation from the demented perspected of what the forensic locksmith would or would not do to steal the car!
These conclusions are based on conjecture! Every case I take on seems like I reviewing the report of a liar in order to assist the client insurance company to authorize a veryy intrusive investigation on the insured. Who am I to judge?
Years ago, there used to be a scientific procedure for ignition examinations. As for the ignition, this required the removal and disassembly of the ignition lock. Once disassembled, the wafers (tumblers) were put under a microscope at 10x, 20x and 30x magnification. Microscopic photos were taken indicating any identifiable tool marks corresponding to the supplied ignition keys. The lack of tool marks or witness marks accordingly must be taken unddr consideration. The narrative is to determine the last key used in the ignition. While this is virtually impossible in spite of what experts claim, one may be able to determine keys recently used in the ignition.
About 2005, the experts did away with this testing for expediency. Why spend hours examining an ignition lock, when one could do it in 5 minutes! It didn’t seem to matter if 50% of the indicators observed under a microscope were missing from the new hi-tech standards. The new standards required the use of a lighted magnified scope put into the key way. Therre are a number of reasons this testing is severely flawed, but it has gotten dramatically worse! Now, engineers appear to think they are competent to determine the last key used. They have no clue as to what they are talking about. Its bad enough when these are civil cases, but are also criminal cases!
Key/Lock Wafer Wear
I am going to put things into a very common sensical way so everyone can understand the crap behind this “Scientific” process. These experts use the fact they are civil engineers and just by title must know more than anyone whren it comes to tool mark analysis. They have no background in tool marks, but we must believe them because they are licensed engineers! I have two reports from California dealing with this at the moment. The processes from the same company are the same and the conclusions are the same. One of these also had a fire investigation, where arson was determined.
OK, the key is a striker tool and is harder than the soft brass or aluminum wafers it contacts when inserted into the ignition lock. Over useage, errosion develops to the wafers in which the key or keys will leave a path. Keys are double cut meaning they can be inserted into the lock from either cut direction. Each key after a period of time will leave these wear paths (2 per key). If two keys are commonly used, you will have potentially 4 key pths. Some pronounced more than others. Both the vehicles I am referrencing had over 100,000 miles on them. There may be identifiable anomolies on the key cuts and how they interact with the corresponding wafers. The engineers removed the ignitions. They disassembled the ignitions. they took regular photographs of the wafers. No macro potos or no micro photos. The conclusion with just examining one key and not the others for the vehicle was that no marks were observed, meaning the key they examined was the last one used!
In the criminal case, just on this alone, I can establish reasonable doubt one could drive a semi through! The civil case will be just as absolute!
As stated, we will have wear at those mileages. Groves inset into the wafers from key insertion. Yet, it is said, because no tool marks wre observed, the last key used was the one examined. There is a reason the observed no such wear marks. They didn’t examine the wafers with a microscop and not even a $5 magnifying glass! Even the fact that it was stated there were no tool marks observed, there is no facttual way they can correlate this event to the examined key being the last used. Many of these so-called experts use assumption as the investigation guide line. In the even there were marks they were looking for, this goes to the assumption and no fact, that a newly cut key will have rough edges and will leave marks. Their lack of competence in this area leaves me in awe! Laser key cutters which are commoly used to duplicate keys, do not leave any rough edges and the key is smooth. It will not leave marks!
These experts have the insured’s life in their hands and they don’t care as long as they get paid for supplying reports indicating insured’s involvement!
This is not arrogance talking. You experts are too incompetent to oppose me, and I am going on a full frontal assault on you lying thieves! Insurance defense and prosecutors that I am opposing will try to show my anti-insurance bias. O course that did not work well for the prosecutor in a criminal case in virgina in sept of 2017. I made sure i could inform him anfd the jury, my firm just took on another insurance assignment the day before court! So much for bias!
I am very good at factually portraying my points. So much so, that I was coined a name by client attorneys needing a small point hammered home. I am known as the “Sledge Hammer!” I am not aware of anyone serving in the court as an expert that knows more than me about my subjects and I am always sadly disappointed opposing the all-knowing experts I do! They lose–we win!!!!
That is another issue that just drives me nuts and is from my experience to common from California to new Jersey! Arson was determined, yet no determination was made of the accellerant. Well, if you have no determination as to the accelerant, you simply cannot call the fire arson! They do however! If an accellerant is not determine, the fire can’t even be ruled in or out as accidental!
Auto Theft Investigation
I will break this down for simple understanding. SIU is the Special Investigation Unit. With the claim being referred to the SIU, this means they are looking at the insured not as a auto theft victim anymore, but someone suspected as submitting a fraudulent claim. What’s that? You had nothing to do with the reported theft? That attitde falls on deaf ears! You are guilty and the investigator is going to prove it! At least that is their narrative.
The investigator has no proof to this because it simply isn’t true! The investigator doesn’t need proof other than the independent certified forensic locksmith they contracted who is insinuating that it was the insured’s key that last drove the reported stolen vehicle!
So the insured is being accused by an unknown person referred to as an “independent” certified forensic locksmith (CFL) that wrote a report on your vehicle (the vehicle does not even have to be recovered where he examined no physical evidence) indicating for a conclusion that the reported stolen vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type!
After your recorded statement, a number of facts (red flags a/k/a fraud indicators) were applied to the claim for the purpose of referring it to the SIU. The investigator went to the vendor list and assigned the claim to a CFL.
What is interesting here, is the investigator hand-picked the CFL, and the insured was never given the opportunity to have an expert representing them at the time of the CFL exam. Why not? Does the insurance company have something to hide?
Part of the issue here is that many investigators that know nothing about the methodologies to defeat ignitions and transponder systems and rely on people that claim they do. These vendors will present free seminars for insurance companies claiming they have specialized training, experience and background to separate the myths from the truth on auto theft claims. They also purport to have the ability to determine the last key used in the ignition.
In some cases they do. In fact, it commonly is the insured’s key that was last used in the ignition, when the certified forensic locksmith inserted the insured’s supplied ignition key into the ignition lock to perform a function test!
This is a process. Once the CFL has submitted his report, whether he examined the vehicle, keys, ignition, interrogated the computer and indicates the vehicle was last driven with a key for the vehicle, the investigator now has the green light for a full blown investigation on the insured. The insured’s involvement does not have to proven. The case being built is based on not what it is, but what it appears to be.
A good example for financial motivation goes like this: The vehicle was recovered a total loss. The insured might owe $28,000 on a vehicle worth $20,000.00. This is known as upside down in the vehicle. Now, let’s say the insured has gap insurance. Gap insurance picks up the difference from what is owed to the actual cash value of the vehicle.
The investigator will claim that the insured could not afford the payments and had the vehicle made into a total loss, so all the insured is responsible for is the deductible and the insured can walk away from any financial liability.
In another situation, let’s say the value of the vehicle is $60,000 and nott recovered. The motivation would be that insured has an astronomical amount of debt, and the insured’s motivation is that they would receive $60,000.00 cash! However, the one fact that the insurance company leaves out is the insured doesn’t get the cash as portrayed and the funds would go to the lien holder!
Insurance fraud is a major problem. I stand by the carriers in their investigations and have no bias against them. I commend the SIU.
The problem though is it is also common for an overzealous investigator to paint all insured’s with the same brush!
Sometimes the investigators put too much faith in their certified forensic locksmiths. I have pointed it out so often, commonly in court that the CFL in my opinion is being deceptive and giving the reader of his reports the false impression that because of their great forensic abilities, they are determining the last specific key used. What they are saying in their reports on recovered thefts, recovered stolen and burned and not recovered is the same exact conclusion of key of the proper type.
There was no scientific or technical skill required to reach this conclusion, but because they are using the badge of forensics, they must be able to determine the last key used. Are these reports specifying the insured’s first and every day use key? No! Are they saying the vehicle was last driven with the insured’s second key? No! Are they saying that the vehicle was last driven with a thief’s key? No! Yet, every one of these examples is a key of the proper type.
One might say that a newly cut key would leave fresh tool marks. How do they know this for a fact? This assumes that a newly cut key will have rough edges and will drag across the wafer lands (Where the key Rides). A competent locksmith and a thief don’t want problems inserting or removing a key, so they will buff all the rough edges. A smooth key is not going to leave any marks. That is simple common sense!
Even though the inventor (who is now retired) of the last key used process from the 90’s has stated in depositions, for a key to create wear patterns, it has to be inserted at least 500 times!
When it comes to the SIU investigation, one has to be very careful truthfully answering the questions! The investigator is convinced the insured has submitted a fraudulent claim, and this is not the time the insured should be defending themselves!
We consult the insured, letting them know up front, what type of loaded questions are going to be asked and how to truthfully address them. We are not lawyers and don’t give legal advice. However, we have given hundreds of hours of sworn testimony. We also prepare the insured for an EUO (Examination Under Oath).
We have over 20 years working with SIUs and we know the process extremely well.
If you are under an Auto Theft SIU investigation, give us a call!
Serve 50 states. Distance not a problem with investigation consultation. Everything is done through phone and email.