Feline follies: Man launches dead-cat con

By James Quiggle
January 29, 2013

catThis cat con went to the dogs.

Yevgeny Samsonov was rear-ended at a traffic light when the other driver’s foot slipped off the brakes.

The Tacoma, Wash. man needed chiropractic treatment, and the driver’s insurer PEMCO paid nearly $3,500 to cover the bills for treating soft-tissue injuries.

But nothing could save his beloved cat Tom, who was in the car and somehow died in that little vehicle dustup.

At least that’s what Samsonov said after suddenly reappearing two years later. Tom’s life was worth something material, he told PEMCO.

The insurer sent Samsonov $50.

But Samsonov wouldn’t let sleeping cats lie.

He shot back that he’d paid $1,000 for dearly departed Tom, who was like a son to him. He made a $20,000 claim. The insurer asked Samsonov to send images of Tom as proof. So he forwarded two images he said he’d taken of a handsome white cat with blue eyes.

A PEMCO employee did a simple search of Google Images using the search term “white cat.” The same images appeared almost immediately. Samsonov’s images were of different cats, and neither was Tom. In fact one image was featured on the Wikipedia site devoted to cats.

The insurer cancelled the $50 check and sent the case over to the Washington State fraud bureau.

The unit investigated further, and officials confronted Samsonov with the evidence. He made several denials and kept changing his story, Assistant Attorney General Melanie Tratnik told reporters.

“Clearly he didn’t think through how easy it would be to simply check the Internet and have the first two cats pop up that happened to be the photos that he sent in,” Tratnik said.

Instead of being paid for Tom, Samsonov will do the paying.

He was charged with insurance fraud and attempted theft. Samsonov faced up to a year in jail but was sentenced to 45 days, with 15 in jail and the rest under home monitoring. He also was fined $2,250.

“We’ve handled some pretty unusual fraud cases, but this is one of the stranger ones,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.

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