Fraud of the Month archives

January 2018: High-flying airplane con crash lands and deep-sixes

Ditzy gang wrecks planes, Lamborghini, luxury boat in doomed insurance plot imageSmoke filled the Beechcraft Baron airplane 30 miles off the Louisiana coast … going down fast. Pilot Theodore R. Wright III radioed for help when flames spat out from behind the instrument panel, melting the windshield. He bellied the plane into the ocean — a cool-headed, life-saving maneuver. Or so Wright claimed. Ditching the Beechcraft actually was a ditzy insurance hoax — Wright crash-landed and sank it on purpose. The deep-six dunking jumpstarted a doomed plot to wreck the Beechcraft … another plane … a Lamborghini … ...



December 2017: Young broker steals client premiums for mansion living

imageRising prodigy overspends, crashes after leaving clients without protection Earl O’Garro had it all — and more. The young insurance broker was a rising prodigy in a city known for insurance stars. O’Garro owned Hybrid Insurance Group, which specialized in expensive, high-risk coverage for businesses and others. He opened Hybrid in a modest suburban office. His business quickly seemed to take off like a flashing comet. One client was the city of Hartford, with O’Garro supposedly buying several liability policies. Indeed, life seemed good. O’Garro paid himself a high six-figure salary, and bought a six-bedroom mansion in a tony suburb. ...



November 2017: Homes bought cheap, burned for inflated claims

imageArson rings round up dozens of homes to torch in arson spree Homes and cars were kindling for Verdon Taylor, the overlord of a crime ring that lit up more than 30 arson fires to score nearly $1 million of insurance money. Buy cheap and claim big was Taylor’s modus during a 16-year binge that traversed the Richmond, Va. area Taylor’s rat pack bought homes and cars at auctions and foreclosure sales — all at steep discount prices. Single-family homes and mobile trailers and cars all were rounded up. Taylor’s cohorts often rented houses as well. They stuffed the homes ...



October 2017: Celeb skin doc bills nose jobs as insured medical repairs

Fugitive goes on run after convicted of $50-million insurance grab imagePatients found Dr. David Morrow’s offer an easy sell — he’d pretty them up with free or discounted cosmetic surgery. Insurers would pay most of the tab, the celebrity skin doc told patients at his clinic in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Except health insurance generally doesn’t pay for plastic surgery. Beautifying the body is more an elective personal pleasure than than true medical need. So Morrow blithely invented medical diagnoses he knew insurers would pay — falsely billing $50 million for trumped-up surgeries. He billed nose jobs as fixing deviated ...



September 2017: Kind man burned alive in home insurance arson

imageBest friend betrays him for insurance payouts, burns home with blowtorch David O’Dell was a gentle man, mentally slowed by a head injury, yet good-natured and trusting. He lived alone in an aging wooden house. He had no idea the home would become his coffin. O’Dell was burned alive for insurance money by someone he considered his best friend. O’Dell worked for Joseph Meyers in upstate Wayland, N.Y. Meyers and his wife Iryn wanted to buy a double-wide trailer to upgrade their living quarters, and Joseph planned to buy two tow-truck businesses. O’Dell and insurance money were their gateways ...



August 2017: Uncaring homecare con robs Medicare, taxpayers

Dallas doctor led $375-million Medicare scam claiming healthy seniors were infirm, homebound imageJacques Roy mounted a form of home invasion, so big and audacious that he’ll serve 35 long and lonely years in federal prison. The Dallas-area doctor authored one of the largest Medicare cons in history. The elephantine $375-million plot cranked out thousands of false claims for phony care of supposedly infirm and homebound seniors. Medicare gives seniors a leg up if they’re stuck in their homes, too unhealthy to get around. Uncle Sam pays for specialists to come to their homes and help with their day-to-day medical needs. Phony ...



July 2017: Flashy lawyer’s $550-million disability con disabled

Hundreds lose coverage, feds demand hefty repay imageWhere’s Eric Conn? The feds want to know. So do the Kentucky disability lawyer’s clients — hundreds, many stuck without disability money they desperately need to survive. Conn engineered the largest federal disability ripoff in U.S. history — nearly $600 million in pilfered taxpayer money, plus a judge bribed to grease disability claims for Conn’s clients. After pleading guilty, Conn slipped out of his ankle monitoring bracelet and disappeared while awaiting sentencing. He’s still on the run, facing up 12 years or more in federal prison. Face plastered on billboards Conn was something of a celebrity ...



June 2017: Hit-and-run drivers hide behind fake insurance claims

Pedestrians grievously hurt, drivers speed away, lie about collisions imageDazed and fumbling after drinking at a party all night, Maxwell Materazzi-Hatala made a dumb choice to drive home. The Scranton, Pa.-area man rammed into a trash collector and crushed the city worker’s legs. Materazzi-Hatala then lied to his insurer about the collision. It was a desperate bid to fool his insurer into paying for repairing his Toyota’s crumpled front end, and throw police off the track. Hit-and-run drivers sometimes use insurance scams to camouflage their mistakes and avoid responsibility for the grievous injuries they cause innocent people trapped in the ...



May 2017: Doctor fakes death in Russia to avoid U.S. health charges

Lives on fake identity for years before being nabbed again imageJust a small favor, Dr. Tigran Svadjian begged the feds. He was cornered for allegedly stealing nearly $2.5 million from California’s state-run health insurer. He was mixed up with a suspected Armenian mob-related medical fraud ring. The Newport Beach physician told prosecutors he’d plead guilty, and agreed to go undercover by wearing a wire in conversations with suspected ring cohorts. He just needed time to visit his ailing mother in Russia. Sure, why not, the feds agreed. So Svadjian hopped a flight to Moscow. The feds soon received a ...



April 2017: Unsober sober homes pimp addicts, gouge insurers

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Foggy addicts laced with heroin and other opioid poison trooped to Kenny Chatman’s drug treatment center and sober homes, anxious for a clean life. Instead, Chatman plied them with more drugs and pimped out women in exchange for drug highs. The Palm Beach, Fla. entrepreneur kept his residents addicted and tethered to sober homes that often were little more the unsafe flophouses. Chatman preyed on their misery to soak health insurers for $25 million of useless sobriety treatment and drug testing. Sober homes and drug testing have taken off in response to America’s rising tide of opioid addiction, especially ...



March 2017: Cheater mugs adjuster after bogus car-repair claim

Violence a threat that all fraud fighters watch out for imagePrentice E. Ponds was cornered. He’d just made an insurance claim for repairing his damaged Chevy Camaro. Insurer adjuster Mark Frayne visited his home. Frayne showed him photos proving the car was damaged before he bought it on eBay. Free repairs ... false claim ... arrest likely. Ponds panicked. The Tulsa man was on parole, with a long felony rap sheet. A fraud bust could toss Ponds back into jail for years. He clicked into fight-or-flight mode. Ponds beat up Frayne — breaking his ribs and lacerating his head. ...



February 2017: Grocery-store arson wrecks building, incinerates tenant

Duo ignites gasoline that exploded in botched insurance scam imageJamal Abu Samak blew up a New Orleans grocery store, firing up an insurance arson that went tragically wrong and incinerated a tenant living upstairs. Samak has lodged unappealing appeals for years in Hail Mary efforts to reduce his life sentence in federal prison. A federal court denied Samak’s latest bid in January 2017 after years in jail. He launched the botched scam in 1991. Still, that decades-old case reveals the chilling potential of insurance arsons. The arsonists often botch attempts to burn down homes or businesses for insurance paydays. ...