The Sleaze

True Crime of Insurance Fraud Number 33

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Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE presents videos so you can learn how insurance fraud is perpetrated and what is necessary to deter or defeat insurance fraud. This Video Blog of True Crime Stories of Insurance Fraud with the names and places changed to protect the guilty are all based upon investigations conducted by me and fictionalized to create a learning environment for claims personnel, SIU investigators, insurers, police, and lawyers better understand insurance fraud and weapons that can be used to deter or defeat a fraudulent insurance claim.

An Evil Insured

The Sleaze was not a nice man. He learned the safe way to steal in prison. A Superior Court Judge had sentenced him to two years in state prison for forging his mother’s will.

His cell mate, an armed robber bragged about his successful brother. The brother had found a new career claiming the theft of small pieces of jewelry on homeowners’ policies. Insurance companies always paid, whether he owned the jewelry or not, rather than fight. His cell mate explained how prosecutors had no interest in this type of crime. Insurance companies, fearing punitive damages verdicts would pay even when the claim was fraudulent.

The Sleaze vowed that when he got out of prison he would pursue this safe form of crime.

The Sleaze was a man of his word. Immediately after leaving prison he bought a tenant’s homeowners policy. He asked for, and received without question, a $10,000 jewelry extension from the company. His limit of liability, instead of the standard $1,000, was $10,000.

Within a month of buying the policy, he reported the probable theft of a $10,000 ring. He told the adjuster that he was at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel meeting with a business associate. He removed his ring to wash his hands in the men’s room. He forgot to replace his ring, returned to his lunch and realized the ring was missing about the time he finished lunch. He immediately went back to the restroom but found the ring missing. He reported the possible theft to the men’s room attendant and to the hotel security office. He told the adjuster that the ring was a family heirloom given to him by his father a week before he died. He had no appraisals or receipts. He had nothing in writing that proved he owned the ring. He had no photographs showing him wearing the ring. He was willing, however, to swear that he owned the ring and that it was probably stolen from the restroom at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The Sleaze would not let the matter rest. He filed suit in Superior Court naming counsel and the insurance company for fraud in the taking of his automobile. The insurance company had to retain new counsel to defend its attorney and itself to this new lawsuit. When that suit was unsuccessful the Sleaze filed small claims court actions alleging fraud and hoping that the insurer or its attorney would fail to appear. When counsel appeared at the small claims court action, the Sleaze, who was present, faked an illness and begged for a continuance. When this was unsuccessful, judgment was entered on the small claims court action for the insurance company and its counsel.

On the surface, the Sleaze was unsuccessful in his fraudulent claims against the insurance company. He was successful in committing fraud. He was successful in raising the reasonable costs of defending fraudulent insurance claims beyond logic. He placed a lawyer in fear of her life and cost her law firm and the insurer she represented the cost of a body guard. Anyone who believes that insurance fraud is not a violent crime never met the Sleaze.

© 2022 – 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 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.

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You can contact Mr. Zalma at,, and . Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.

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