Assets Forfeited as Restitution for Murder for Profit

Insurance Companies are Victims When Wife Killed for Insurance Money

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Post 4785

Secondary Beneficiaries Have No Right to Insurance Proceeds Obtained by Father as a Result of Murder of Mother

Julian and AnaBianca Rudolph (jointly, “Petitioners”) sued by a Verified Petition for Adjudication of Interests in Property Ordered Forfeited (“Petition”) and a memorandum of law in support. In United States Of America v. Lawrence Rudolph, and Lori Milliron, CRIMINAL No. 22-cr-012-WJM, United States District Court, D. Colorado (April 12, 2024) the USDC resolved the dispute finding the insurers, not the secondary beneficiaries were the victims of the fraud.

BACKGROUND

On August 1, 2022, Defendant Lawrence Rudolph (“Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of committing foreign murder. The jury also convicted him of committing mail fraud. With respect to Count 2, nine insurance policies paid claims out due to the mail fraud.

On May 17, 2023, the Court entered its Preliminary Order of Forfeiture, which determined which specific assets are forfeitable by Defendant. On August 21, 2023, the Court conducted the sentencing hearing as to Defendant, at which it also addressed restitution and forfeiture. The Court ordered that Defendant must pay $4,877,744.93 in restitution to the insurance company victims as set forth in the life insurance payments.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

Petitioners are the daughter and son of the deceased, Bianca Rudolph, and Defendant. They petitioned the USDC for an ancillary hearing based on their legal interest, both personally and on behalf of their deceased mother’s estate, in certain assets this Court has ordered forfeited to the United States.

Prior to her death, Bianca Rudolph obtained nine life insurance policies from seven different insurance carriers Petitioners are specifically listed as contingent beneficiaries on three of the insurance policies, meaning they would receive the proceeds if the primary beneficiary (namely, Defendant or the Rudolph Trust) is disqualified in any way.

Defendant began collecting on the life insurance policies almost immediately after Bianca Rudolph’s death in October 2016, receiving $4,877,744.93 in insurance proceeds between January and March 2017. In doing so, he hid the fact that he murdered Bianca Rudolph.   He was tried and convicted of murder and fraud in August 2022.

After the conclusion of the trial, the Government moved for an order that Defendant: (1) forfeit property identified as proceeds of his insurance fraud offense; and (2) pay mandatory restitution to the victims of his crimes.

ANALYSIS

To establish that they have statutory standing Petitioners must first demonstrate that they have a legal interest in the property to contest the forfeiture. Petitioners have the burden to prove a legal interest in the property exists.

Petitioners argued that they were the beneficiaries of a constructive trust over the assets subject to forfeiture. The Court concluded that Petitioners have not met their burden to establish that they are entitled to a constructive trust under Arizona law. As a result, they cannot establish that they have standing to contest the forfeited property.

Elements of Equitable Constructive Trust

In Arizona, a court may impose a constructive trust when title to property has been obtained through actual fraud, misrepresentation, concealment, undue influence, duress, or similar means, or if there has been a breach of fiduciary duty. The Arizona cases do say a constructive trust can be imposed in situations where it is necessary to compel one who unfairly holds a property interest to convey that interest to another to whom it justly belongs.

Party to Whom the Insurance Proceeds “Justly Belong”

The Court found that Petitioners are not entitled to a constructive trust. To establish standing for a constructive trust, Petitioners must establish that they are asserting their own rights and not those of third parties.

Petitioners reiterate that they, or trusts that ultimately benefit them, are the contingent beneficiaries of the life insurance policies, and with limited exceptions, the insurance companies agree that they are the proper beneficiaries of those policies.

Whether an Adequate Remedy at Law Exists

The Court agreed with the Government’s position because the insurance companies, not Petitioners, are the victims of Defendant’s fraud and have selected an adequate remedy at law: restitution. This element of the constructive trust analysis is designed for the defrauded party-here, the insurance companies.

The Court concluded that Petitioners lack standing to continue with the ancillary proceeding under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(c) and dismisses their Petition.

ZALMA OPINION

The fact that the Petitioners – the children of the murdered woman who was murdered by their father – sought the proceeds of his crime, the insurance proceeds was understandable. However they would not have received the money if she died of natural causes. They were not the victim of the insurance fraud, they were victims of their father’s criminal conduct who killed their mother but that did not give them a right to the insurance proceeds.

(c) 2024 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.

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About Barry Zalma

An insurance coverage and claims handling author, consultant and expert witness with more than 48 years of practical and court room experience.
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