LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than a dozen people have been arrested in a scheme to stage car crashes or submit phony accident claims in a Southland insurance fraud scheme.

The state Department of Insurance says the scam, centered in Riverside County, netted more than $300,000 from seven insurance companies.

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Joel Paredes, 22, who police suspect was the ringleader, was arrested Wednesday.

Prosecutors claim the Indio body shop owner offered friends and family $500 each to file claims for car crashes that were either staged or never occurred. He faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted on all fraud counts.

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Paredes remains jailed, and it’s unclear whether he has an attorney.

Authorities say 19 people were involved in the scheme and all but six are under arrest. Three others are expected to surrender.

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