Even the Stupid Can Become a Citizen but not a Convicted Insurance Fraudster

The U.S. Loves its Immigrants and Those Who Want to Become Citizens

Unless They Are Felons

Becoming citizens of the United States was one of the proudest moments in the live of my parents. Although they are gone to their rewards I still keep safe their naturalization papers making them citizens of the United States. Becoming a citizen is the ambition of almost every legal immigrant to the United States. However, becoming a citizen is not something that happens automatically upon request. There is a test that must be taken and the applicant must prove that they are of sufficient moral character to act as a citizen.

In Dia Lindo, a.k.a. Dia Grant, a.k.a. Dia Bromfield, a.k.a. Dia Grant-Bromfield v. Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Lori Scialabba, Deputy Director, Office of the Chief Counsel USCIS, U.S. Attorney General, Linda Swacina, District Director USCIS, et al., No. 18-12249, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (March 15, 2019) Dia Lindo filed a petition for review of the denial of her naturalization application in the district court. The government moved for summary judgment arguing that Lindo was barred from becoming a naturalized citizen because she had been convicted of two aggravated felonies, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43). The district court granted the government’s motion.  Dia Lindo appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.

FACTS

Lindo is a citizen of Jamaica and a legal permanent resident of the United States. She obtained permanent resident status in 1997. In April 2001, Lindo reported her Lexus car stolen and filed an insurance claim with State Farm Insurance Company. As a result, State Farm sent Lindo a check for $21,695.65, paid rental car expenses on Lindo’s behalf, and paid off a lien on her Lexus. But in March 2002, the police discovered Lindo driving the same Lexus she reported stolen.

She was charged with one count of grand theft and one count of insurance fraud. She pled no contest to both charges, was sentenced to 15-months imprisonment, and ordered to pay $21,695.65 in restitution.

Lindo filed an application for naturalization in 2012, eleven years after her conviction. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) denied her application in 2013, finding Lindo lacked the required good moral character to become a citizen in light of her two aggravated felony convictions.  The district court ruled that Lindo’s convictions for grand theft and insurance fraud constituted aggravated felonies that barred her from becoming a naturalized citizen.

ANALYSIS

In naturalization proceedings, the applicant bears the burden of establishing his or her eligibility for citizenship by a preponderance of the evidence. If a “fair-minded jury could [not] return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented,” summary judgment is appropriate as a matter of law.

The INA provides that no person shall be naturalized unless they are a person of good moral character. The INA defines an “aggravated felony,” in relevant part, as an offense that “involves fraud or deceit in which the loss to the victim or victims exceeds $10,000.” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(M)(i).

Lindo’s insurance fraud conviction involves deceit despite including an intent to injure mens rea element. The statute criminalizes “knowingly” making a statement that contains “any false, incomplete, or misleading information concerning any fact or thing material” to an insurance claim. Because the statute requires knowingly making a materially false or misleading statement in an insurance claim, it necessarily involves an act of deception. The act of intentionally leading someone to believe something that is not true and a false statement of fact made by a person knowingly with the intent that someone else will act on it. The court, therefore, rejected Lindo’s argument that it does not.

In addition to the fraud or deceit requirement, the INA requires an applicant’s actions to have resulted in a loss of over $10,000 to the victim for the conviction to count as an aggravated felony. Lindo does not dispute she was ordered to pay $21,695.65 in restitution to State Farm. She was ordered to pay this money to State Farm through a restitution order, which was converted into a civil lien. Although the restitution order did not specify the conviction upon which the restitution was premised, the civil lien lists both Lindo’s charges for grand theft and insurance fraud.

Even drawing all inferences in her favor, the amount of restitution ordered — $21,695.65 — matches the exact amount of money Lindo fraudulently induced State Farm to pay her.

Lindo’s conviction for insurance fraud thus meets the definition of an offense “involv[ing] fraud or deceit in which the loss to the victim or victims exceeds $10,000.” Her conviction involved deceit as a matter of law and the loss to the victim was greater than $10,000.

She is not therefore eligible to become a naturalized citizen.

ZALMA OPINION

Contrary to the belief of many, insurance fraud is a serious felony. Dia Lindo learned that fact when she was required to spend months in jail and pay more than $20,000 in restitution. She waited eleven years after her conviction to apply for citizenship and was denied because of the conviction of a serious crime involving moral turpitude.  She was dumb enough to get caught by reporting the theft of a car she continued to drive. Although stupidity is not something that can deprive a person of citizenship, criminal conduct is.


© 2019 – Barry Zalma

This article, and all of the blog posts on this site, digest and summarize cases published by courts of the various states and the United States.  The court decisions have been modified from the actual language of the court decisions, were condensed for ease of reading, and convey the opinions of the author regarding each case.

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant  specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 50 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and zalma@zalma.com.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

Over the last 51 years Barry Zalma has dedicated his life to insurance, insurance claims and the need to defeat insurance fraud. He has created the following library of books and other materials to make it possible for insurers and their claims staff to become insurance claims professionals.

Passover Seder for Americans

Passover is one of the many holidays Jewish people celebrate to help them remember the importance of G_d in their lives. We see the animals, the oceans, the rivers, the Passover Seder for Americans: An All English - Easy to Perform - Passover Seder by [Zalma, Thea, Zalma, Barry]mountains, the rain, sun, the planets, the stars, and the people and wonder how did all these wonderful things come into being?

All Jewish fathers are required to teach their children, at least once a year at the Passover holiday, about the exodus from slavery in Egypt. For American Jews who have difficulty understanding Hebrew and complicated books describing the Exodus, my wife and I wrote this book to use for our own Seder where each member of the family reads part of the book.

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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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