2013 Insurance Fraud

Hall of Shame

Quick... Lock your front door and hide. America's most brazen, vicious or klutzy insurance crooks have been elected to the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame.

Welcome to the No-Class of 2013...They’re America’s newest pharaohs of fraud. All were convicted or had other legal closure last year.

The Hall of Shame puts a human face on insurance fraud. These Barons of Bleak show that fraud is more than a victimless crime. Victims suffer despair and depression. Some are wounded or die. Families are broken up. Children lose parents. Seniors lose their life savings. Our insurance premiums rise.

So enter the online cellblock. Feel outrage, get mad. Even laugh — a little — at the klutziest of the cons. But always, resolve to fight back. With committed action by honest Americans everywhere, these misfits and mea-culprits will never make us One Nation, Under Fraud.

Family burned alive for life-insurance payout

Armin Wand wanted a fresh start. He scraped out a living from one small paycheck to the next. His wife Sharon constantly complained about the family’s money problems.

So Wand’s desperate mind conjured a simple, clean and violently twisted solution: torch his house for renters insurance, and burn his family alive so life-insurance money would flow.

Wand enlisted his little brother Jeremy for the incendiary plot. He’d pay Jeremy $300 from the insurance money. Marked for death were Sharon — who was pregnant — Allen (age 7), Jeffrey (age 5), Joseph (age 3) and Jessica (age 2).

The pair set fire to crumpled up sheets of paper and placed them under the futon on which Sharon Wand was sleeping. They also stashed papers near a TV and computer in the living room — that would make the fire would appear electrical. Read full story

NYPD stings no-fault crash con

After plundering millions of insurance dollars, a historically greedy staged-crash ring is fracturing like a clay jug as lieutenants and field bosses are carted off to jail cells.

The mammoth ploy stole with staggering efficiency. The extensively Russian-run operation tried to heist more than $400 million in fake injury claims from setup crashes in the New York City area.

That’s the largest attempted pilfering of no-fault insurance money in history, prosecutors say. Insurance thievery such as this is a big reason honest New York drivers pay some of America’s highest auto premiums. A well-constructed sting took down the history-making ring and a key operative, attorney Sol Naimark. Read full story

Lawless Lamborghini ride means turnpike to prison

Stashed in David Juntunen’s storage facility for the winter, the sterling silver Lamborghini Gallardo was a dream machine, a $200,000 eye-popper.

A police officer was making a DUI arrest and saw the Lamborghini zoom by around 1:45 a.m. A tow-truck driver onsite to remove the DUI offender’s car recorded a partial license-plate number.

The Lamborghini was more machine than Juntunen could handle. He lost control about 15 minutes later. It bolted from the road like a feisty colt from a corral. The vehicle took down three trees and two light poles, and dug up the turf in a Minneapolis park.

Juntunen crept away under cover of night. He had one of his tow-truck drivers quietly haul the woebegone car to his main facility, and didn’t report the incident to police.

He filed a claim the next day with his commercial insurer Travelers Insurance. The battered Lamborghini needed nearly $82,500 in repairs, a claims adjuster determined. Read full story

Crooked public servants serve themselves

America’s elected legislators, judges and others pledge a sacred trust to uphold the law. Some officials find that stealing a glittering pot of insurance money appeals more than protecting triflings such as democracy and the trust of voters.

The vast majority of America’s public servants are honorable. Then comes former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi. The Arizona Republican stole more than $400,000 in client premiums from his family insurance agency to finance his 2002 congressional campaign, then covered up the double-dealing.

Renzi had a small family-owned agency ironically named the Patriot Insurance Agency in southern Arizona. The agency specialized in covering nonprofits, including right-to-life groups and pregnancy-crisis centers. Renzi is a conservative with 12 children and who professed strong religious faith in working with constituents. Read full story

Staged crashes endangers kids, tears apart families

Some of the biggest victims of insurance fraud are the smallest ones — innocent children.

Ana Ovando abused her five kids, aged three to 16, as pawns in dangerous staged crashes for auto-insurance payouts in South Florida. Her conviction tore apart the family, leaving the kids tearful, scared and lost without their mother.

Ovando belonged to a gang that staged crashes on South Florida’s roadways. She maneuvered a vehicle into low-impact collisions so she and her passengers could make fake whiplash injury claims against auto insurers. Read full story

Insurance fugitive Tweets self back to jail

On the run, convicted insurance thief Wanda Lee Podgurski taunted law enforcement with cheeky Twitter feeds.

“Catch me if you can,” she Tweeted after bolting from her disability-fraud trial.

Podgurski was an Amtrak clerk in the San Diego-area. She’d been handed 20 years in absentia for stealing more than $660,000 worth of insurance money.

She had lied that she was disabled after slipping and falling down the stairs at home. Her back, hip and leg were badly hurt, she said. Podgurski needed an in-home caregiver, she lied to the insurers. Read full story

Father crushes son with truck for life insurance

“Not fully human” was how the sentencing judge described Karl Karlsen.

The upstate New York man had just received 15 years to life in jail after murdering his only son for more than $700,000 in life insurance money.

Karlsen had bought the coverage just 17 days before killing Levi. Karlsen hoisted his 5,000-pound pickup truck onto a wobbly jack in the family’s barn, and asked Levi to work on the transmission.

Levi slid under the truck to start work. Karlsen sneaked up to the jack and tripped it. The truck crashed onto Levi, crushing his chest and leaving him to die a horrific death of pain and suffocation. Read full story

Drug dealer thinks Medicare cons safer

A convicted cocaine dealer swapped the back alleys of drug peddling for the waiting rooms of Medicare fraud clinics. He stole a fortune but ended up in a jail cell.

Armando “Manny” Gonzalez immigrated from Cuba to Florida to start a new life peddling drugs.

He spent five years in federal prison for dealing, then found what he figured was a safer, lower-risk career with high-income potential: Medicare fraud — stealing from taxpayers and the seniors who needed care. Gonzalez became a millionaire in no time despite no expertise in medicine. Read full story

Railroad disability scheme derailed

Foot doc Peter Ajemian helped hundreds of Long Island Rail Road employees lie that they were seriously hurt so they could land cushy retirements larded by disability insurance payouts and ill-gotten pensions.

He should’ve toed the line and stayed with healing feet.

Ajemian sold out his profession and taxpayers. His fraud mill was pivotal in a massive gravy, well, train of fraud. The theft spree could’ve reached $1 billion if investigators hadn’t derailed it. The fleecing of America’s second-largest commuter train system was one of the largest such scandals in U.S. history. Read full story

Read about previous year’s inductees to the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame: