CAIF Dishonors 2005’s Worst Insurance Con Artists

January 25, 2006

Scalpel-wielding surgeons, klutzy grave robbers, a pretend princess and murderous arsonist were among the eight worst insurance swindlers of 2005, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud (CAIF) reported.

They were elected to the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame, which spotlights the year’s largest, most-brazen, tragic or stupid convicted insurance criminals. All had legal closure during 2005.

Insurance fraud is an $80-billion crime annually, and has grown more violent, invasive and costly in recent years. The Scheme Team reflects that trend.

According to the CAIF:

Burning with desire — Norma Galindez died when she fell from the burning Palomar tenement hotel in Hollywood. Owner Juan Ortiz had torched it for insurance money. Four fire fighters also were hurt. Ortiz’ brother helped set the fire and died when gasoline exploded.

Surgery patients cut no breaks — Tam Vu Pham paid more than 5,000 healthy people to have surgeons operate on them so his Southern California medical clinic could fraudulently bill insurers more than $96 million. Surgeons performed colonoscopies, sweaty-palm surgery and other invasive procedures.

Truth decay — Dentist Alireza Asgari did hundreds of painful, worthless and botched surgeries on patients to steal nearly $370,000 in insurance money. The Wilkes-Barre, Pa. dentist did unneeded root canals, cavities and extractions.

Princess was pauper — Antoinette Millard pretended she was a Saudi Princess and hobnobbed with Manhattan society. Millard actually was the daughter of a Buffalo steelworker. She couldn’t afford the swanky living, and tried to raise cash by lying to Chubb Insurance that a thief stole $226,000 worth of her jewels.

Sick health plans — William Paul Crouse and Carmello Zanfei sold fake health insurance to tens of thousands of victims through their sham firm, TRG Marketing. Florida roofer Rusty Baker committed suicide when TRG wouldn’t pay his medical bills. Champion NASCAR driver Pete Orr died of cancer after delays in finding new coverage.

Blight of the living dead — Molly and Clayton Daniels dug up the body of an elderly woman, dressed her in Clayton’s clothes, put her in his car, torched it and pushed it off a cliff near Georgetown, Tex. They faked Clayton’s death for $110,000 in life-insurance money. Clayton returned disguised as her new boyfriend.

Blind ambition — Brian Calen made a small fortune in insurance money by lying that he lost his right eye on three separate boat cruises. The Manhattan day trader claimed the sun filter fell off a ship’s telescope while he was looking through it, a champagne bottle exploded on another cruise, and he was hit by a flying toy disc on a third cruise.

Unhealthy health switch — Brian Shechtman bilked more than 1,200 Florida seniors out of at least $4 million. He told them they’d bought discount health coverage but actually sold overpriced life insurance. Many seniors gave up their real health coverage, and some lost their homes and savings to pay medical bills themselves.

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