Am I In Trouble?
Bankruptcy Fraud Defeats Legitimate Insurance Claim
Insurance fraud, like any other profession, improves with practice. The beginner, unaware of the tools available to an insurer, makes a stupid error that will destroy him or her.
Abraham MacPherson was an insurance fraud novice. He had succeeded, with ease, in defrauding his bank by submitting a false financial statement as part of the application for a loan. He even convinced an FBI Agent, checking his fraudulent loan application, that he was the victim of a dishonest loan broker. Success made Abraham bold. He decided it was time to branch out into insurance fraud.
The Petition for bankruptcy, like most filed in the Bankruptcy court showed MacPherson to have no equity in any of his property and no money. He reported his assets as only $500 in jewelry and the tools of his plumbing trade since they were exempt from the grasp of his creditors. What he did not tell the Bankruptcy Court was that MacPherson also owned a $150,000 twin engine Cessna Aircraft that he used to go on hunting and ski trips. He did not tell his lawyer about the airplane because he did not want it sold for the benefit of the judgment creditor whom he felt cheated him.
The day his debts were discharged Abraham called his insurance broker. He advised the broker that his home had been burglarized. He claimed the burglars took all of the jewelry on the schedule. He demanded the immediate issuance of a check for $41,960.
MacPherson stuck to his story. He demanded immediate payment or he would complain to the California Department of Insurance and file suit.
Moseby reported to his principal, the insurer, who decided to deny the claim for fraud. Further, following the law, since MacPherson had admitted to Bankruptcy fraud, the insurer instructed Moseby to pass the information he had obtained to the FBI. In addition, as required by California law he presented the information to the California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division.
Moseby was right, MacPherson was not in trouble with him. He simply would not collect on his claim. MacPherson was in serious trouble with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was upset that MacPherson had fooled him. After verifying the results of Moseby’s investigation the FBI presented the information to a U.S. Attorney. Prosecution followed charging MacPherson with Bankruptcy Fraud, Mail Fraud — for the presentation of a false and fraudulent claim to an insurer by use of the U.S. Postal Service — and for loan fraud.
He went to trial in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on charges of Bankruptcy fraud. The trial took five hours to complete and the jury was instructed on the law at 4:00 p.m. They deliberated for three days and convicted MacPherson, who was sentenced to serve three years in federal prison.
It doesn’t pay to lie to an insurance company about a claim. Doing so can lose your claim. It is worse to lie to a bankruptcy court because that is a federal crime that could put the liar in jail for as much as five years. This case proves why it is best to always tell the truth.
(c) 2022 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.
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 practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 54 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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