- Dean Smith
Three Insurance Scams That Were Anything but Victimless
Insurance fraud’s an old crime, and perpetrators typically view their scams as a non-violent way to enrich themselves. This isn’t always the case, though, and whether the would-be scammer intended their crime to end without bloodshed, their greed often has destructive consequences, either for themselves or the people caught up in their scheme. In this article, we’ll look at three cases where the lure of insurance monies took a painful turn.
The Oldest of Frauds
Compared to the other two entries, this scam’s a bit of a softball, and only the perpetrator suffered. It is, however, the oldest recorded example of insurance fraud, and, rather unsurprisingly, doesn’t end well for the scheming criminal. According to Investopedia author Andrew Bloomenthal, a Greek merchant named Hegestratos decided to try his hand at scamming back in 300 BCE, when he took out an exorbitant policy known as bottomry.
In other words, the merchant took out a loan and used his ship as collateral. When the cargo was delivered, he repaid the load with interest. If the ship was lost due to an accident, however, the creditor lost out.
Hegestratos planned to sink his empty boat prior to loading, intending to keep the loan, and sell the cargo later. The plan failed when crew and, apparently, passengers, caught him in the act, and he drowned attempting to escape. Only Hegestratos paid for his actions in this aged crime. Sadly, it didn’t set a precedent.
A Mother’s Love and Lack Thereof
Cold-blooded murder is one of humanity’s darkest crimes, one that people find ever more twisted ways to explore, especially when there’s insurance money for the taking. In 2014, Erica White decided that the filthy depths of evil were a place she wanted to visit, and her two-year-old son was the ticket she needed.
Tyrael McFall’s life wasn’t one anyone would envy. He was eight weeks old when his father beat him and inflicted permanent damage. Yep. Joseph McFall beat his newborn son, breaking Tyrael’s wrists and a rib. According to Joseph, the injuries were accidental. Because it’s an accident when you throw your eight-week old baby across the room, and leave them permanently blinded by brain damage.
Fast forward two years, and his mother had new husband and a shiny new insurance policy on Tyrael. The credit cards they’d taken out in Tyrael’s name, along with a host of assorted fraudulent bank and lending accounts, weren’t enough for them anymore, and Erica White poisoned her son through his feeding tube with Tylenol 3 – codeine – before leaving him with a babysitter.
According to court documents, White and her husband continued their credit card fraud after Tyrael’s murder, securing five and attempting to get four others while waiting for the insurance money. Not content with that, the pair attempted to conceal the boy’s death from the Social Security Administration, intending to keep Tyrael’s disability benefit check rolling in.
On February 7th, 2018, Erica White was found guilty of 16 charges including malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, two counts of making a false statement, three counts of identity fraud, six counts of financial transaction card fraud, second-degree forgery and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
At her trial, White attempted to blame her husband, Michael Schullerman, and her defense claimed she “loved and cared for her son.” The judge was not convinced. White was convicted of murder and fraud and sentenced to life plus 83 years. Michael Schullerman was charged with murder; pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 30 years.
Faking Your Own Death Just a Little Too Well
On September 7th, 2018, a 34-year-old man went missing in China’s Hunan province. The China Daily reported the man, listing only his surname ‘He,’ was driving a borrowed car when last seen. Police found the vehicle in a river on the 19th, but no body.
On October 12th, He surrendered to local authorities, confessing that he faked his death. According to police, He owed $14,500 to an online creditor, and his wife would have received $144,500 per his life insurance policy. Apparently, He wasn’t trying to skip out on his wife, surnamed Dai, and she had no knowledge of his plan. His intention really was to “die,” and stay that way, thereby improving the life of his wife and two children.
Regardless of He’s intentions, his plan didn’t work out the way he hoped. His wife, Dai, genuinely believed he had died, and on October 10 she drowned herself, their four-year-old son, and three-year-old daughter in a pond. Dai posted a suicide note on social media, stating that He’s family blamed her for his disappearance – apparently, they felt she spent too much, and wasn’t employed. In her note, Dai explained that she was unable to work because she was caring for her two children, pointing out that their youngest was epileptic. “I want to use my life to prove myself,” she’d written, noting that her family would be complete again once they reached the afterlife.
Authorities noted that no one filed an insurance claim after He vanished. The, now distraught, man hadn’t informed his wife he’d purchased it.