- Dean Smith
The 2017 Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame Inductees
Year after year, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud blesses us with the newest Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame inductees, the worst of the worst in insurance fraud scams, to help bring awareness to the detriment that insurance fraud has on not only all of our pockets at $80 BILLION per year, but the physical harm caused to others as well. The lengths that some will go to fill their pockets are horrific.
Here are the 10 newest inductees for 2017 according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud and Property Casualty 360:
1. “Bumper Crop”
Investigators busted a massive staged-crash ring, one of the largest staged-crash rings EVER, as mastermind Michael Charles Young attempted to steal $500,000 from insurers in Sacramento, California.
Young was found to have purchased approximately 100 cars on Craigslist, most of which were previously damaged, recruited and paid around 65 family members and friends to crash them, and also drew up accidents that never existed.
Each participant was given a script when speaking with insurers, and approximately half of the crash claims involved stolen IDs that were utilized in the registration of vehicles and claim filings.
However, investigators finally caught up to Young while keeping an eye on one of his vehicles. Young towed the vehicle directly to an insurance office to file a false collision claim, but was unaware that investigators were watching the vehicle, proving it had never moved until it was put on the tow truck.
Young will spend the next 10 years in state prison.
2. “Burning ambition”
David O’Dell of Steuben County, NY was under the impression that Joseph Meyers was his best friend. Sadly, Meyers did not share the same sentiment. So much so, that Meyers and his wife Iryn ended up burning O’Dell alive in the house that they let O’Dell live in.
The Meyer’s would have received $140,000 from the home, possessions inside, and O’Dell’s life insurance policy.
That night, the couple drove to O’Dell’s home, carrying a propane torch and a container of liquid. “The place burned up, and O’Dell was incinerated alive – his body a shrunken pile of dried-black flesh,” according to Property Casualty 360. And the Meyer’s were caught doing so on surveillance footage.
Both Joseph and Iryn received a sentence of 23 years to life.
3. “Flame and blames”
Verdon Taylor, the mastermind of an arson ring, stole approximately $1 million from insurers after purchasing homes and vehicles for cheap at auctions and foreclosure sales in the area of Richmond, VA, over-insuring them, and burning them. The ring started 30 fires over the course of 16 years.
According to Property Casualty 360, “Ring members stuffed mobile and rental homes with furniture and clothing bought at flea markets or auctions. They re-used property they burned for earlier claims. Scammers often set fires just days after buying policies. Fire claims ranged up to $300,000.”
Taylor was arrested, charged, and convicted, and ultimately faces up to 50 years in federal prison upon sentencing.
4. “Unsober sober homes”
South Florida sober home director, Kenny Chatman, guaranteed that his business would never fail by endlessly providing drugs to desperate addicts living in his facility and perpetuating relapse. “Prolonging their addiction incited more than $25 million of inflated and often worthless rehab and drug testing claims in South Florida,” according to Property Casualty 360.
Not only did residents and addicts continue to overdose while in Chatman’s “care,” but female addicts were also used as prostitutes so Chatman could capitalize on the cash. Chatman’s house of horrors helped fuel an already out of control and deadly opioid epidemic, and put South Florida on the map as the capital of sober-home fraud in the United States.
Chatman has been sentenced to 27 ½ years in federal prison.
5. “Uncaring homecare”
According to Property Casualty 360, “More than 11,000 healthy people were declared sick, infirm and homebound in Dr. Jacques Roy’s mammoth $375-million looting of Medicare and Medicaid. The Dallas physician ran the largest and most-brazen home-healthcare con in U.S. history.”
Roy employed recruiters that preyed on easy targets by bribing the homeless in shelters and even knocked on the doors of random strangers.
Roy was found to have “erected a factory line to lodge phony home healthcare claims. He had an entire department cranking out his signature and bogus medical ‘plans’ nonstop.”
Roy was sentenced to federal prison for the next 35 years.
6. “Baby killer”
Joaquin Rams of Northern Virginia decided that $500,000 and a new life mattered more than the life of his 15-month-old baby boy, Prince. Rams was broke, unemployed, and looking to cash in.
Rams murdered Prince at his home, but it was unclear if Prince was drowned or suffocated. Investigators weren’t short on motive however, as Rams’ finances painted a crystal clear picture of why a father would murder his own baby, as he “planned an expensive home upgrade and seemed strangely unemotional.”
Rams was sentenced to life in prison without parole, and Prince’s death sparked a huge, national debate regarding the massive life insurance coverage for such a young baby.
7. “Sinking feeling”
Vincent Viafore “accidentally” drowned in the Hudson River in West Point, NY when his kayak capsized. However, investigators discovered that his fiancée, Angelika Graswald, tampered with a cap on his kayak to ensure Vincent wouldn’t make it out of the river alive to ultimately collect his $250,000 life insurance policy.
Graswald called authorities from the cold and choppy river, citing that Viafore vanished. After the tragedy, Graswald was seen out at a local pub singing “Hotel California” and posted selfies of her doing a cartwheel on her social media accounts.
What’s even more chilling is that she told investigators that it “felt good knowing he was going to die.” Graswald currently awaits sentencing.
8. “Out of luck, on the run”
Property Casualty 360 reports that “Flamboyant lawyer Eric Conn stole more than $550 million by inventing injured and disabled patients. It was one of the biggest lootings of federal disability money in U.S. history.”
Conn originally helped people in “the impoverished Kentucky and West Virginia coalfields” collect their disability benefits. However, Conn’s nature turned from aid to greed, as he eventually bribed a judge and multiple doctors into passing through thousands of fraudulent disability claims, and forged medical records before patients were ever seen by doctors.
Conn was caught, but managed to ditch his tracking bracelet and disappear before receiving a 12-year prison term as a fugitive.
9. “Homecare horror”
Investigators discovered a gruesome scene, a “chamber of horrors” if you will, in the Bristol, VA home of Brian and Melissa Harr. The Harr’s three children, ages four, five and twelve, one of which was severely disabled with cerebral palsy, were found locked in a bedroom filled with human feces and urine, no lights, windows screwed shut, and only a few fouled mattresses.
Their parents and a hired caregiver, Deborah Branch, however, were busy feeding off of the Medicaid home-healthcare money they were receiving. Branch kicked back a measly $200 in Medicaid payments every two weeks to the Harr’s.
“Branch hauled in nearly $208,000 of taxpayer money while doing no caretaking. She vacationed in Myrtle Beach, S.C., while her time sheets said she cared for the youth,” according to Property Casualty 360.
Brian and Melissa Harr each received a four-year federal prison sentence, and Deborah Branch received a six-year sentence.
10. “Painful painkillers”
Dr. Shelinder Aggarawal, a Huntsville, AL physician, was awarded America’s top prescriber of prescription opioids to Medicare patients, an honor he clearly had no shame in baring. Why? Because it was a $9.5 million insurance scam and abuse of otherwise desperate drug addicts.
Patients, even well-known drug addicts, were prescribed whatever pills they pleased, much to their dismay, as one official stated that patients were “dropping like flies, they are all dying.”
“Aggarawal saw up to 145 patients a day, typically for just five minutes or less. He spooned out more than 12.3 million pills in just one year – 423 scripts a day. He also fleeced private insurers.”
Prosecutors saw that Aggarawal would spent 15 years in federal prison.
Luckily, we have prosecutors and fraud investigators to thank for putting these monsters behind bars. Honest consumers deserve the safety we provide, and the world deserves to know the types of gruesome actions that insurance fraud perpetuates.
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