Cheater mugs adjuster after bogus car-repair claim

Fraud of the Month: March 2017

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. Ponds also grabbed Frayne’s claim file and audio recorder. A woman in the room fled out the door with the items.

Violence is something all fraud investigators watch out for. Panicky swindlers think a fist or bullet will keep them out of jail. They can feel desperate and trapped. They face ruin, possible jail time, and loss of job or career. Emotions can be incendiary. Investigators have been murdered and ambushed. Hits on witnesses and judges were planned.

Photos proved prior damage

Ponds claimed a woman backed her truck into his Camaro. Repwest Insurance grew suspicious. An investigator found the eBay listing. Photos showed the same damage in pictures Ponds sent to Repwest for his repair claim.

The jury landed hard — life in prison for beating and robbing Frayne, plus 25 years for the insurance scam. It was a big victory for the Oklahoma insurance department, which led the investigation along with Repwest.

“Combating insurance fraud can be a dangerous world, scamming a violent felony. It’s a world that fraud fighters willingly enter, knowing their work is making America safer from insurance crime.”Investigators Kim Sledge and Rhett Jeansonne were shot to death. They were respected fraud fighters with the Louisiana insurance department. They knocked on the office door of insurance agent John Melvin Lavergne. The Ville Platte man was suspected of stealing client premiums.

Lavergne was waiting in ambush, knowing his career was over. He shot Sledge and Jeansonne, killing them on the spot, then turned the gun on himself.

Jeansonne left behind his wife Bernadette, a daughter, three sons and a granddaughter. Sledge’s husband, daughter and two stepdaughters were left to grieve.

Auditor clubbed with chair

Sallie Rohrbach was an auditor for the North Carolina insurance department. She was reviewing agent Michael Howell’s books for possible theft of client premiums. He crept up behind Rohrbach, clubbed her to death with a chair, then buried her body in a remote area. Howell was handed 28 years in state prison.

Some trapped suspects are methodical, carefully plotting hits on witnesses and judges.

Mob associate Ron Galati stole millions of dollars in bogus repair claims through his Philadelphia body shop. He paid hoods to shoot an inconvenient witness in the head during his trial. The hit nearly came off, until Galati had his daughter’s boyfriend shot instead — amazingly, he lived.

Galati earned up to 28 years in state prison after a skillful prosecution by the Philadelphia DA’s office.

Combating insurance fraud can be a dangerous world, scamming a violent felony. It’s a world that fraud fighters willingly enter, knowing their work is making America safer from insurance crime.


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