State Farm Employee Not a Good Neighbor, Charged in Fraudulent Checks Scam

February 18, 2005

New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Director Vaughn McKoy announced that a State Farm Insurance Company employee has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $19,000 by creating fraudulent insurance claims checks.

According to McKoy and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden-Brown, Lola Ruth Byrd, 37, of Plainfield, pleaded guilty before Union County Superior Court Judge John Triarsi to a March 31, 2004 State Grand Jury indictment filed by the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. The indictment charges Byrd with theft by deception (3rd degree). When sentenced on July 29, Byrd faces up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

At the Feb. 14 guilty plea hearing, Byrd, a State Farms Insurance Company claims service assistant, reportedly admitted that between Dec. 19, 2001 and Feb. 15, 2002, while employed in the company’s Cranford Fire Insurance Division, she generated 10 State Farm Insurance drafts payable to another person, Sherman McNeil.

According to the indictment, McNeil had no connection to any of the old property loss files that Byrd accessed to create the phony claims checks. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor determined that Byrd would access closed claims files, create fraudulent insurance claims checks as if McNeil had sustained property losses and was entitled to insurance claim money, and then immediately close the claims files.

The investigation further determined that, in addition to her computer terminal, Byrd would reportedly generate the false claims on a co-worker’s computer terminal and also the main switchboard terminal.

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