The International Association of Special Investigation Units honored a State Farm investigator, an ATF agent, an analyst and an NICB employee during their annual awards ceremony this morning. Each had a compelling story on how they are helping the fraud-fighting community advance our mission. Congratulations to all of them.
You can see a video of the presentation here.
Here’s the details on the award winners:
September 21, 2009, Palm Desert, Cal. – A successful investigation of a massive contractor fraud scheme arising from Midwest hail storms has landed top honors for an investigator with State Farm Insurance.
Tom Cockerill, a claims specialist in Indianapolis, Ind. Received the 2009 Investigator of the Year award by IASIU, the association’s highest award.
During an awards ceremony here today, delegates to IASIU’s 25th annual seminar heard about the successful investigation that lead to the honor. According to the awards presentation, the case developed after a major hail catastrophe hit the Midwest in 2006.
Cockerill was credited with digging into the background of the contractor who was a suspected “storm chaser” — going from one disaster to another to file inflated and fake claims.
“Many, many hours of reviewing hundreds of claims files, engineering reports and damage estimates painted a picture of a massive scam involving claim after claim where the purported loss was inconsistent with the severity of the hail storm,” according to the presentation
Digging deeper, Cockerill began the arduous task of assembling detailed evidence through statements taken from more than 20 adjusters, 10 engineers, several insureds, plus many neighbors and other witnesses. He also interviewed existing and former employees of this contracting firm, who were eager to lay out the details of this shady operation.
“Our investigator of the year confirmed that the owner not only intentionally damaged roofs but also taught employees how to create or even increase damage to simulate hail damage to roofs, roofing vents, siding and air conditioning units, according to the presentation.
Key to the case was a piece of damning evidence that our winner discovered — an e-mail message the owner sent to employees as the investigation heated up. He told them to lay low and stop causing intentional damage to avoid suspicion by insurance investigators.
As a result of Cockerill’s work, the state’s attorney general took civil action against this contractor, who now also faces a massive RICO suit filed by State Farm.
“Thanks to the dogged determination of this investigator, tens of thousands of dollars — and perhaps much more — have been saved not only by his company but by other insurers as well, said David Rioux, IASIU president. “The contractor had launched an efficient, savvy scam that likely would have milked insurers for years except for the detailed and professional investigation led by this year’s winner,” he added.
Other awards bestowed during the annual seminar included:
• Outstanding Service Award: Mike McGee of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, who was honored for his training of more than 2,000 investigator during the last two years and for his assistance in guiding three anti-fraud task forces,
• Analyst of the Year: Michelle Bergeron of Esurance, for setting up from scratch a fraud-detection program that helped to uncover a large organized staged-accident ring,
• Public Service Award: Michael Vergon of the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms agency for investigative work that led to the successful prosecution of on the largest arson rings in history in Indiana.