Former owner of Quality Auto Repair in Weed convicted of insurance fraud

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News
Key in ignition

After a lengthy investigation by both the Siskiyou County District Attorney's Office and the state's Bureau of Automotive Repair, a Weed man was convicted of felony insurance fraud and lost his automotive repair license.

Darren William Harris, age 55, owned Quality Auto Repair off of Highway 97 in Weed, which is now permanently closed. 

“This case is a great example of a state regulatory agency alerting the DA’s office to suspected fraud within our borders and then a joint investigation uncovering very bad behavior,” said Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus. “There is no excuse for taking advantage of unsuspecting customers.” 

Judge JoAnn Bicego sentenced Harris to two years of probation, fines, and 90 days in county jail upon the recommendation of Assistant District Attorney Martha Aker. 

Over several years, the BAR received numerous consumer complaints about Harris’s former business, said  Andrus. Among the many grievances were complaints of shoddy repair work, failure to honor warranty agreements, false and misleading statements, collecting money for work never done, failure to return money owed to the consumer, and not providing written estimates.

As a result, the BAR revoked Harris' California automotive repair license in April 2019.

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The felony charge involved Harris billing a customer’s insurance company for more than $3,800 to replace an engine that he didn't actually replace, Andrus said. 

"The customer suspected that his Subaru’s engine may not have been replaced as promised and notified BAR, who sent an expert out to Quality Auto to evaluate the Subaru repair work," Andrus said. It was apparent to the expert that the engine had not been replaced and when confronted with this evidence, Harris, "after initially lying to investigators, admitted that he had had not replaced the engine." 

The case also involved another customer complaint of failure to complete repairs in a timely manner, Andrus said. A Hummer developed transmission problems while passing through Siskiyou County on the way to Washington. The nearest repair facility was Quality Auto Repair, so the person hired Harris to do the work. 

Andrus said Harris didn't inform the customer that his automotive repair license had been revoked by the BAR. He initially recommended a water pump and radiator replacement, which the customer approved. After the repairs were supposedly made, Harris told the woman that the transmission was faulty.

Harris later claimed that he replaced the transmission with a faulty unit and that it needed to be replaced again, Andrus said.

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"Harris continued to make numerous excuses about delays in completing the work, and eventually, he stopped returning her calls," Andrus said. He still had the Hummer and had retained the money that the owner and her warranty company had paid for the claimed repairs.

"The BAR again sent out an expert who learned that Harris had billed the warranty company for a transmission replacement that never had occurred," said Andrus, adding that Harris promised to repay the customer but hasn't done so. 

The Siskiyou County District Attorney’s Office has a grant from the California Department of Insurance to investigate insurance fraud in the county, Andrus said, and his investigators have expertise in many types of reportable fraud, including welfare fraud, workers’ compensation fraud, real estate fraud, and fraud against consumers. Insurance fraud itself can take many forms including automobile collision fraud, automobile property fraud, medical fraud, life and annuity insurance fraud, healthcare fraud and fraud regarding insurable property of all types, Andrus explained.

“I encourage the public to report suspected fraud to local law enforcement agencies or to the DA’s office on our website," said Andrus.