Russellville Man Pleads Guilty in Pre-Need Theft

September 19, 2003

A Russellville man surrendered his license to sell insurance, including pre-need policies, as a part of guilty plea this week on theft by deception charges.

Mark Spry, 48, admitted that he pocketed $4,000 in premiums collected from an elderly woman rather than sending them to an insurance company in Utah that he had represented as the insurer of a pre-need policy he sold to the woman.

In 2002, the Alabama Legislature passed a law that regulates the pre-need industry. Spry is the first to lose his license under that law to sell pre-need policies through a guilty plea or jury conviction. Spry has made restitution through the purchase of a policy for the woman, and must remain out of trouble for two years or face six months in the Franklin County Jail.

Insurance Commissioner Walter A. Bell thanked Franklin County District Attorney John Pilati for pursuing the case upon the request of the Alabama Department of Insurance. He also pointed to this case as another piece of evidence for the need of a state insurance fraud law.

“The law exists to stop people like this from preying on innocent citizens,” Commissioner Bell said. “John Pilati is to be commended for his help in this matter. Vincent Ledlow, of our Department’s Legal Division, also did outstanding work in pursuing this matter and coordinating with Mr. Pilati.

“We were fortunate that the local district attorney was able to work with us on this case, but sometimes that isn’t the case. With a fraud law, the Department would be able to bring the case directly to court. The people need that kind of protection. Unfortunately, the atmosphere exists is that some bad guys think they’ll never get caught. We caught this one, but we need the tools to catch them all. An insurance fraud law is the tool we need.”

A bill to create an insurance fraud law failed in the 2003 regular session. Commissioner Bell promised the legislation would be introduced again.

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