Matthew Wetzel of Matt’s Off-Road Recovery on YouTube has been charged with one second-degree felony count of insurance fraud. His towing company is accused of fraudulently collecting money from the American Automobile Association. It’s a charge that carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
Matt, his team, and guests make treks far from pavement to recover just about everyone from stuck campers to flooded out six-figure rigs and tourists who bit off more than they can chew. They’ve racked up over 908,000 subscribers and millions of views doing it. My fiancée and I have been binging the recoveries during our off-roading off-season. I also recently featured Matt’s team recovering a Cessna 150 from a mountain ridge.
We’ve often wondered what happens after the cameras stop rolling. Off-road recovery gets expensive and even simple jobs can set you back a few hundred. According to a complaint filed by an investigator with the Utah Insurance Department Fraud Division, Wetzel’s Winder Towing allegedly filed numerous claims that contained “material misrepresentations” to AAA from January 2019 to August 2020 reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
Court documents allege that Winder Towing collected over $15,000 from AAA for claims that contained “known material misrepresentations.” At least one of these claimed tows were filmed and posted them on YouTube, from the Salt Lake Tribune:
One claim examined by investigators involved a Polaris RZR off-road vehicle towed from Sand Hollow State Park in April 2020. In a video of the tow posted to Wetzel’s YouTube channel, he was seen hauling the vehicle, court documents said — noting that AAA’s policy does not cover off-road vehicle tows.
The owner of the RZR told an investigator that he used his friend’s AAA membership to cover the cost of the recovery, court documents said. The claim filed with AAA said Winder Towing rescued the friend’s truck, instead of the RZR, the documents said.
In another alleged incident, Winder Towing delivered construction materials to an individual. The person submitted three claims to AAA for tows of their vehicles to Salt Lake City. AAA’s payout was $2,800. The individual admitted to the Utah Insurance Department Fraud Division that their vehicles weren’t actually towed.
A report from St George News detailed another incident:
Investigators also learned of a claim paid out by AAA for $437 involving a car that was purportedly towed from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Washington County in September 2019. While digging deeper, DeCow reportedly discovered the vehicle recovery from Las Vegas never occurred.
Instead, the complaint says, an individual contacted Winder to have his disabled truck towed from Apple Valley to his home in Washington County, and even though the customer did not have AAA coverage at the time, the defendant allegedly told him to sign up for a membership and then they would wait a few days before filing the claim.
Speaking to an investigator, Wetzel took responsibility for the claims sent to AAA. He explained that Winder Towing performed services for customers, but instead of billing the customer, he would tell them to sign up for AAA and submit a claim long after the jobs actually concluded, reports KSL News.
Wetzel says that the claims were “wrong on the front end, but fair on the back,” maintaining that he never turned in a job that didn’t have a legitimate service attached to it.
Second-degree insurance fraud is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. According to Wetzel’s attorney, he is cooperating with the Attorney General’s office to “clear up any potential misunderstanding.”