YouTuber Matt Wetzel has been charged with defrauding AAA with false insurance claims related to off-road recovery jobs.
Matt’s Off-Road Recovery is a popular off-road YouTube channel with nearly 900,000 subscribers as of December 2021, but the man behind it is facing fraud charges, according to recently filed documents reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.
The court filing from late October alleges Matthew Wetzel, owner of Utah-based AAA affiliate Winder Towing and the YouTube channel, defrauded the insurance company with “numerous claims” that contained “material representations” of the jobs for which he sought compensation between January 2019 and August 2020. The Washington County Department of Insurance Fraud brought the case against Wetzel’s company for knowingly engaging in fraudulent towing claims.
Salt Lake City news affiliate ABC4 notes one example of the alleged fraud wherein Winder Towing billed AAA $2,800 to tow three separate vehicles, though one of the owners admitted that his vehicle was never actually towed when contacted by officials investigating the alleged fraud. Instead, Wetzel reportedly told that owner to submit three separate tow claims to AAA in lieu of paying to deliver construction materials.
In another instance, an owner who did not have a AAA membership used Winder Towing to recover a truck in Apple Valley, Utah. As the company rendered the service, Wetzel told him to join AAA, then file a claim a few days later, according to court documents.
A third case noted in the documents involved a Polaris RZR, of which Wetzel has recovered quite a few in videos uploaded to his YouTube channel. That owner told investigators he used a friend’s AAA membership to cover the tow, although the insurance company does not cover ATVs, including side-by-sides.
The investigation discovered $15,000 in alleged false claims
Over the year-and-a-half period noted by the court documents, the state’s Insurance Department noted $15,000 in claims containing “known material misrepresentations” to AAA. Wetzel, for his part, took responsibility for the claims sent to AAA but noted he did not turn in a claim that did not have a “legitimate service” tied to it. A statement from Wetzel’s legal counsel, as noted by the Salt Lake Tribute, says he is cooperating with the Attorney General’s office to “clear up any potential misunderstanding.” In a December 7, 2020 phone call with investigators, he said the claims were “wrong on the front end, but fair on the back”, and that he provided “numerous services” to the RZR customer before asking that owner to file a AAA claim.
Per Utah state statues, insurance fraud in excess of $5,000 is a second-degree felony, punishable by one to 15 years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine, or both.
We’ve reached out to Winder Towing for comment, but have not gotten a response as of Wednesday morning. We’ll provide an update with their comment or other information that emerges from this case.