A state appeals court panel Tuesday upheld the 2016 insurance fraud convictions of a father-son duo of former police officers who claimed the younger defendant’s BMW was stolen but were caught on video dropping the car off at a friend’s home on the day it supposedly went missing.
John Mejia, now 36, was a Palm Springs officer, while now-65-year-old Robert Mejia was retired from the Fontana Police Department when they were found guilty and sentenced to three years probation.
John Mejia’s wife Crystal, now 34, was also found guilty of insurance fraud and sentenced to three years probation, but the three-justice panel from California’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that her conviction should be overturned due to a lack of sufficient evidence showing that she knowingly participated in the fraud.
The trial jury acquitted her of a felony count of preparing a false document in support of a fraudulent insurance claim.
The car was reported stolen April 13, 2014, with John Mejia alleging the car was taken from his in-laws’ condominium in Palm Springs. Utilizing a feature that tracks and provides GPS coordinates on newer BMW models, police located the car two days later at a home in Hesperia.
The homeowner, a longtime friend of Robert Mejia, told investigators he brought the car to the house a few days earlier, the appellate court’s opinion states.
When questioned, the elder Mejia claimed he had taken the BMW from his son as part of a birthday prank, in which he would later return the car filled with gifts.
However, surveillance footage taken from the Hesperia home showed the father and son arriving in separate cars on the morning of April 13, with the younger man behind the wheel of the BMW, the opinion states. John is seen in the footage removing the BMW’s license plates and then leaving with his father in one car. The BMW was reported stolen about six hours later.
The license plates were later found at John and Crystal’s home, one in their garage and the other on top of their refrigerator, according to the opinion.
While a theft claim was made with State Farm, the couple’s insurance company, no money was ever paid to them on the claim. The car was located before they could complete an Affidavit of Theft, according to the appellate court’s opinion.