CRIME, POLICE + COURTS
Popular southern Utah YouTuber charged with insurance fraud
WASHINGTON COUNTY – A popular YouTuber from southern Utah is being charged with insurance fraud. Prosecutors claim he charged AAA for towing jobs that either never happened, or shouldn’t have.
Matt Wetzel’s YouTube channel, “Matt’s Off Road Recovery,” has over 800 thousand subscribers. He has posted over 300 videos of pulling stranded vehicles out of sand, mud, and water all over southern Utah.
Charging documents state Wetzel used his towing service to collect money from AAA that he shouldn’t have received.
Former prosecutor Kent Morgan, who is not connected to this case, said prosecutors usually take an insurance company’s claims of fraud with a grain of salt.
“There are certain people who are constantly in civil litigation who will attempt to use prosecution as a tool to enhance their pressure in a civil case,” Morgan said. “Good prosecutions look at those allegations very skeptically.”
The fraud case against YouTuber Wetzel
In this case, prosecutors felt there was enough evidence to charge Wetzel with insurance fraud, a second-degree felony. The statement says Wetzel took over $2,800 for four tows between May 2019 and June 2020. But the vehicle’s owner said they were not taken to Salt Lake City, as Wetzel claimed.
Prosecutors also claim Wetzel towed a vehicle for someone who wasn’t covered by AAA. They say he advised the owner to become a member then make their claim a few days after.
Wetzel is also accused of charging AAA for towing a Polaris RZR in April 2020, even though the insurance company doesn’t cover off-road vehicles.
Wetzel reportedly spoke to investigators with the Utah Insurance Fraud Division in December 2020 and took responsibility for those claims. However, the statement says Wetzel told the investigators the deals were “wrong on the front end, but fair on the back.”
Morgan said this statement adds a new wrinkle to the investigation.
“His statement that they weren’t ‘wrong’ mitigates his admission.”
Morgan believes this claim may establish a defense strategy where Wetzel’s attorneys could argue that the claims were not made in an attempt to take money unfairly. Morgan said it will be up to the judge to decide if this is a criminal case, or if it belongs in civil court.
“If I were the defense attorney,” Morgan said, “that’s what I would be arguing, that a civil case has been escalated into a criminal case.”
Police documents show that AAA paid Wetzel over $15,000 for towing jobs that were based on “known material misrepresentations” between January 2019 and August 2020.
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