Crime Warp: Rogue Cops Turn to Insurance Fraud

June 16, 2009

Police are sworn to protect the public, but some rogue cops turn to insurance schemes, thus becoming the very criminals they’re supposed to hunt down.

Some corrupt cops steal insurance money with coldly calculated malice. Others simply screw up, get into financial trouble and anxiously seek insurance money to bail themselves out of a tight corner.

Nobody keeps statistics about cops who launch insurance schemes. But like many public officials and private citizens, police can be all too human. They’re the small minority of an honored profession, but their insurance cons batter their badges and the values they’re supposed to uphold.

A corrupt Philadelphia cop teamed up with a tow-truck driver to help launch dozens of fake car crashes and vandalisms. The bogus claims stole more than $513,000 from auto insurers.

Officer Drexel Reid Jr. created false police accident reports to help legitimize fake crashes for victimized auto insurers. Reid received a cool $500 per report he spooned out. Those bogus documents help grease two dozen bogus claims against 11 auto insurers.

Reid’s crony, tow-truck driver Jerry Blassengale Jr., in turn, recruited people to stage the vehicle crackups and lie that vandals had banged up the cars. He even coached his recruits how to pretend they were injured — typically soft-tissue injuries such as whiplash, that were hard for insurers to medically disprove. Blassengale even threatened some people who got cold feet and tried to back out.

Chicago officers Scott Campbell and Joseph Grillo also had a scam going. They did a big favor for tow-truck operator Meatball Athans. They chased rival tow-truckers away from crash scenes so Athans could rake in the towing fees.

Athans was happy to provide payback. Grillo helped set up a bogus theft of Campbell’s Volkswagen Passat for an illicit insurance payout. For his part, Meatball had the doomed car towed to a buddy’s chop shop, where it was dissected into virtually untraceable scrap.

Meanwhile, Rosedale, Miss., police officer Marvin Johnson lied to Progressive Insurance that someone had stolen his Toyota Avalon from in front of his house. But once questioned, he told such a muddled story that prosecutors carved him up in court.

For starters, Johnson never even owned the Avalon. First, he said he bought the car at a local Cadillac dealer. But when questioned more closely, he shifted gears and said he’d bought it from some “dude” under a tree by a roadside.

Johnson also said someone stole the car from in front of his house while he was showering. He’d locked the keys in the car and came out to retrieve them by entering the car via its external electronic keypad, only to find the car gone. But just one problem: Toyota doesn’t make cars with the keypads. Nor could he even remember the code when questioned.

Meanwhile, Decherd, Tenn., police detective Herbert Cantrell’s lousy taste in informants landed him a criminal sentence.

He used someone he thought was a reliable snitch to help bust drug dealers. But Cantrell had large bills and hired the informant to torch his house for insurance money. Cantrell inflated the home’s square footage and value to secure a larger homeowner policy just days before burning down the house.

Cantrell hired his snitch to do the job. But the informant messed up, so Cantrell torched the home himself. But the snitch then spilled the plot to the FBI — for whom he also was an informant.

Washtenaw County, Mich., sheriff deputy Jennifer Reynolds was having an affair with a married fellow deputy, Christopher Campbell. They got into an argument, and he rammed her SUV in the heat of the moment. To keep the incident quiet and hide his affair, Campbell wrote up a bogus police report saying the crash was a hit-and-run in a parking lot. Reynolds used the report to file a fraudulent damage claim with her auto insurer.

Deputy sheriff Benny Harding had a nifty gunshot scheme to steal workers’ compensation money, but the con had too many holes to beat prosecutors.

The McCracken, Ky., officer claimed a mysterious attacker shot him in the shoulder while on patrol. But Harding actually shot himself to get out of work and collect more than $24,000 in workers’ comp payouts.

Harding received a light probation sentence, but couldn’t leave well enough alone. He stopped paying back the stolen insurance money, and even lied that relatives were making the payments for him. That didn’t sit well with the court which, at press time, was deciding whether to haul Harding to jail for seven years.

Then there’s California Highway Patrol officer Michael Jones, who started collecting comp money after lying he hurt his lower back on the job. But then he was seen in a government terrorism-readiness video. Jones played the role of a spry terrorist storming Fresno’s wastewater treatment plant. People with injured backs normally can’t storm much of anything, so Jones was busted.

Quiggle is director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. Quiggle’s Crime Warp column is featured exclusively on Web site:

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.