GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The tragedy unfolded along a dark stretch of I-96 in Ottawa County about this time last year.
Estella Vitins' car ran out of gas. The 70-year-old walked along the freeway and was struck by a vehicle. Vitins survived, but her daughter says she has had a difficult recovery.
Accident or not, Vitins' daughter, Amy Cooper, wonders if the tragedy could have been prevented because the driver who hit Vitins shouldn't have been on the road.
"It turns out that he had provided false proof of insurance just a couple of weeks earlier to get his license plate," Cooper said.
Duane Washington, a former NBA player, was later identified as the driver of the car that hit Vitins. He pleaded no contest to a charge of failure to stop at the scene of an injury accident and was sentenced to jail time, probation and community service.
The insurance company he claimed to have coverage through told Target 8 that he never had a policy with them.
Most citizens play by the rules. We pay our taxes, don't roll through stop signs and pay our bills, including the one that comes every six months with an automobile insurance certificate.
But not everyone plays by those rules -- sometimes by mistake and sometimes on purpose.
"The percentage is very high right now of fakes, forgeries and frauds," Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said.
She sat down with Target 8 last week to get the word out about FAIR -- the Fight Auto Insurance Rip-offs initiative.
A task force is looking at ways to reduce fraud. It has already made progress, including getting a new law passed that requires insurance companies to provide renewal information into a database that is updated every two weeks.
And Secretary of State employees are receiving additional training on how to spot fraudulent paperwork.
"We've canceled people that have plates that have bad insurance at a rate 10 times higher than we did just two years ago." Johnson told Target 8.
There are several ways people are cheating the system.
One involves the applicant bringing in what appears to be a valid insurance certificate to a Secretary of State branch. But a quick check of the insurance company database will show if the policy had been canceled.
That's just one example.
"There was one person that was advertising on Craigslist that they could do duplicate insurance, which was obviously fraud," Johnson said.
In other cases, the motorist is also being ripped off.
"There was actually an auto dealer that sold used cars that was providing fake insurance. And a lot of those people probably didn't know," Johnson said.
So how widespread is the problem? The Secretary of State took a sampling of all the renewals that went through branches on July 31 -- close to 15,000.
Over 3,400 hundred involved paper certificates. Of those, 552 were invalid.
"We had almost 30 people come in on that day that had QR codes. Very technologically sophisticated. And when we looked up that QR code, it had a picture of a llama that said "Llamas are so cool," Johnson said.
The numbers from West Michigan from the day of the survey showed that in five local counties -- Allegan, Kalamazoo, Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa -- more than 11% of auto insurance paperwork was invalid.
It's costing taxpayers.
"We've had a 47% increase in the last four years of the money that we all put in the state kitty to take care of people that don't have insurance. That equals $220 million and growing," Johnson said.
Johnson's putting the word out: The state will take action if frauds get caught.
She says it's only fair for those who play by the rules.
"We all pay insurance. It's good that they're doing something about it. Its not fair that people get away with not paying their fair share," Cooper said.
Nathan Lavoie, who worked at St. Therese Lisieux Parish, is facing criminal sexual conduct charges in a case involving a teenage girl.
A Grand Rapids-area massage therapist accused of touching customers inappropriately has entered a no-contest plea to an amended charge.
Kalamazoo County authorities say they are looking for a woman who went missing late last week.