- Dean Smith
The 2015 Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame
At the end of every year, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud compiles a list of the most brash, malicious, and idiotic insurance scams and their perpetrators (all of which have been convicted this year or are currently engulfed in a legal battle) in an effort to raise public awareness of the harm that insurance fraud has on the industry, and to act as a deterrent by informing the public that committing insurance fraud is certainly no joke. Some of this year’s Hall of Shame inductees are truly monsters: Mark Leonard Leonard wanted to cash in on a $300,000 insurance payday to support gambling habits and pay off debts by burning down his home. He let the natural gas in his home escape and poured gasoline to start the fire, but his plan backfired when the explosion leveled almost all of his development in Indianapolis, Indiana. Leonard’s next door neighbors, Jennifer and Dion Longworth were killed in the explosion. Jennifer was killed when the second floor collapsed and Dion was in the basement, burned alive. The explosion caused $5 million in damage, two deaths, and multiple other injuries, making this one of the most violent insurance arsons on record in United States history. Leonard was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Mikhail Zemlyansky Zemlyansky was running the biggest no-fault auto insurance scam charged in the United States…ever. He was the ringleader of a fraud cartel that also included 10 doctors, 3 lawyers and multiple fake clinics, in an attempt to steal approximately $279 million from auto insurance companies. The cartel made injury claims for staged accidents and phantom accidents all around New York City. The “patients” were then receiving physical therapy and acupuncture treatments, sometimes up to five times a week, and billing insurers. Zemlyansky is currently awaiting his sentencing hearing and could receive 100 years in prison! And, most of his gang has pleaded guilty. Gloria Lee Lee was a bankrupt pet shop owner in Las Vegas, Nevada who decided she would burn the pet shop to submit a $100,000 insurance claim, fully knowing that 27 horrified puppies would burn alive in their locked cages. Lee let her then lover, Kirk Bills, in through the back door and he sprayed gasoline all around the store, as well as on the puppies’ cages. Luckily, the fire fizzled and it was all caught on camera…her own security cameras. Lee was sentenced to up to 14 years in prison and Bills was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Martin Pang Walter Kilgore, James Brown, Gregory Shoemaker and Randy Terlicker were the four firefighters who were killed trying to fight a warehouse blaze set fire by its owner, Martin Pang, who had hoped to collect the insurance on the building. The warehouse floor collapsed and the firefighters fell below into the burning basement. Pang went even further. While inside jail, he allegedly attempted to steal the identities of the investigators assigned to his insurance fraud arson case. However, he was never charged for that crime. Pang will be serving 35 years in prison and must repay almost $1 million to the fallen firefighters’ families. Jose Urena According to PropertyCasualty360 and the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, “An NYPD cop who took an oath to defend the law, instead routinely broke it in serial fashion.” Urena had an above average taste for expensive cars and struggled paying for his Mercedes Benz ML350. He submitted a claim to his insurer for “vandalism” repairs and the insurance money actually fixed preexisting damage to the vehicle. Next, he reported that the vehicle was stolen just ONE DAY prior to his lease expiring. An accomplice burned the ML350 and Urena cashed in on another insurance check. “His next Mercedes proved too expensive so he rear-ended a U-Haul, trying to convince his insurer to declare the car a total loss,” according to PropertyCasualty360. Finally, he was involved in a crash with his new Dodge Charger and tried to inflate the claim to cover preexisting damage. Urena is awaiting a sentencing hearing and could face up to three years in prison. Stephen Krawitz Krawitz, a Manhattan personal injury lawyer, negotiated insurance settlements for elderly and low-income clients who desperately needed the money to survive. He provided a wealthy lifestyle for his family, including a $2 million home and private school. However, Krawitz stole more than $1.9 million of his clients’ insurance settlements, and one of his victims was a 96-year-old great-grandmother who injured her shoulder in a motor vehicle accident. Robert Rough, a dying cancer patient who was suffering from severe nerve damage in his hands from a motor vehicle accident, was another one of Krawitz’s clients aka victims, as Krawitz stole his $65,000 settlement. Rough passed away without receiving any of the funds. Krawitz has been sentenced to up to 12 years in state prison. Dr. Aria Sabit Dr. Sabit of Detroit, Michigan stole approximately $11 million from insurers after he performed painful spinal fusion surgeries on patients (almost every patient he saw in his office) who didn’t even need them. According to PropertyCasualty360, “The pain continued long after a bungled surgery for some patients. He also sliced open and closed some patients without doing any repair work at all. Tonocca Scott must wear a back brace with a DVD case taped inside to keep his spine straight. He can sit for only a few minutes and has placed his dream of a computer-technology career on hold.” Before this scam was uncovered, Dr. Sabit practiced in California and was involved in a much similar scam by performing unnecessary surgeries on patients. When sentenced, Dr. Sabit may spend up to 11 years in federal prison. Jose Lantigua Faking your death while on vacation…classic! Lantigua of Jacksonville, Florida went home to Venezuela for vacation, allegedly “died” from an illness, and was cremated. However, Lantigua tried bribing bureaucrats to push through forged death documents in order to collect his $9 million life insurance policy. He also applied for a passport using the stolen identity of a North Carolina postal worker, Ernest Wills, who had significantly different physical features (height, eyes, hair color, etc.). When sentenced, Lantigua can spend up to 12 years in prison. Theresa Fisher & Lindsay Hardgraves Fisher and Hardgraves of Orange County, California were paid $50 million out of $71 million before it was uncovered that they were billing insurers for uninsured plastic surgery and disguising it as legitimate medical treatment at their surgery center. Patients were bribed with plastic surgery, such as tummy tucks, breast enlargements, liposuction, etc., but they had to undergo insured unnecessary surgeries, such as endoscopies, colonoscopies, etc. The extra work was billed as other procedures. Tummy tucks were submitted to insurers as hernia operations, rhinoplasty (nose job) was submitted as deviated septum, etc. And on top of that, patients were taught how to fake symptoms in order to defraud insurers. Fisher has been sentenced to three years in federal prison and Hardgraves has been sentenced to five months in federal prison. William Worthy Worthy of South Carolina somehow found a way to defraud over 17,000 consumers by having them purchase fake health insurance. He comprised a large network of fake “health insurers” and the scam stole $28 million in premiums from unsuspecting victims, making it one of the largest scams of its kind in United States history. Victims were left with unimaginable medical bills that they were responsible for paying, adding up to a total of over $7 million. When sentenced, Worthy could spend decades in federal prison. Pierre Collins Collins thought he would collect a $50,000 life insurance policy by killing his 10-year-old son, Barway Collins. So he beat Barway to death, duct-taped his body, and threw him in the Mississippi River. The life insurance policy for Barway was raised from $30,000 to $50,000 by his father just days before he went missing. According to PropertyCasualty360, Collins “owed child support for multiple children and was unemployed. Cell phone pings placed him near the spot where Barway’s body was found. After denying that he had nothing to do with his son’s disappearance, he confessed earlier this year.” Collins has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
These monsters’ crimes? They affect everyone, which is why these fraudsters are used as the face of insurance fraud every year.
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