Surprised by Conviction of Insurance Fraud Defendant Files Useless Appeal


Guilty of Insurance Fraud

People who commit insurance fraud think it is a crime without punishment or concern. When they are caught, prosecuted and convicted, the perpetrator is so amazed that he or she is one of the few unlucky ones who were caught that they use their ill-gotten gains to fund unfounded and frivolous appeals. For example, in The People of The State Of New York v. Troy M. Cordell, Jr., 637 KA 13-02114, 2020 NY Slip Op 06606, Supreme Court Of The State Of New York Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department (November 13, 2020) Troy M. Cordell, Jr. filed such an appeal. Cordell had been convicted by a jury of insurance fraud in the fourth degree (Penal Law § 176.15) and falsifying business records in the first degree (§ 175.10), Cordell contended that the evidence is legally insufficient to establish his intent to defraud.

The appellate court noted that Cordell failed to preserve that contention for review inasmuch as he failed to renew his motion for a trial order of dismissal after presenting evidence. Viewing the evidence in light of the elements of the crimes as charged to the jury it concluded that the verdict is not against the weight of the evidence.

Because Cordell failed to preserve his procedural challenge to Supreme Court’s disposition of his application and, in any event, the challenge lacked merit. By denying defendant’s challenge, the court thereby implicitly determined that the race-neutral explanations given by the prosecutor for exercising peremptory challenges with respect to the two prospective jurors in question were not pretextual.

In any event, the court concluded that any improprieties were not so pervasive or egregious as to deprive defendant of a fair trial. Since the court concluded that there was no prosecutorial misconduct, it rejected Cordell’s further contention that he was denied effective assistance of counsel based on defense counsel’s failure to object to certain alleged improprieties.

In addition, when the jury’s request is ministerial in nature and therefore requires only a ministerial response the note at issue only necessitated the ministerial action of informing the jury that the requested item was not in evidence.  Although the record does not establish whether the court responded to the note, the need for a ministerial response was obviated by the fact that the jury reached a verdict only 23 minutes after making the subject inquiry.


The New York appellate court gave serious consideration to a useless appeal that was based on allegations of error that were not preserved during trial, claimed his lawyer was inadequate, and simply tried every possible excuse for his conviction. The appellate court, faced with a verdict that took the jury 23 minutes to decide on his guilt, based on overwhelming evidence, and a ministerial answer to a request from the jury that what they asked about was not in evidence, worked very well to convince the court to unanimously affirm the conviction and make sure that Cordell spends an appropriate amount of time in the gray bar hotel.

© 2020 – Barry Zalma

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 52 years in the insurance business. He is available at and

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

Over the last 53 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. Read last two issues of ZIFL here.

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