As more New Mexicans feel the pinch of economic hardship, insurance fraud-related crimes are on the increase, prompting investigators with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission’s Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) to investigate suspected fraud.
As of July 2010, IFB had closed 373 of the 523 new cases it opened since January.
Most recently, the IFB collaborated with Village of Magdalena Marshal Larry Cearley to arrest suspected arsonist Junior L. Lamance. According to IFB Bureau Chief Ben Montoya, Lamance was arrested on Aug. 6, 2010, following an investigation into four intentionally set fires in Magdalena in July. Those fires consumed railroad ties, lumber, abandoned vehicles and a camper trailer.
IFB Agent Niel Fishback and Chief Special Agent Leo Montaño were instrumental in the multiagency investigation which led to Lamance’s arrest. The suspect was eventually identified by an article of clothing found near the scene of one of the arsons and from plaster casts of footprints found at the same scene. Lamance faces four counts of arson – all fourth degree felonies. If convicted, he could face 18 months in prison for each count.
Earlier this year, the IFB helped to arrest Gilbert C. Baca III on multiple counts of forgery, one count of computer access with intent to defraud or embezzle and racketeering. It was alleged that Baca III – a security service provider – provided false certificates of insurance to several clients to obtain or maintain security contracts with various businesses within Bernalillo County.
IFB also investigated Paul Porter of Twenty Nine Palms, Calif., who was accused of insurance fraud in New Mexico. According to the Bureau, Porter is suspected of offering to add independent filmmakers to his otherwise legitimate liability insurance policy for a $200 to $300 consideration and co-producer credit on their films. The insurance is required by the Albuquerque Film Board to film within Albuquerque city limits.
That prompted officers with the Albuquerque Police Department to file a petty misdemeanor fraud charge against Porter in Metropolitan Court. At a related court hearing, the presiding judge deferred action on the complaint for 90 days and informed Porter that the charge would be dismissed provided he paid restitution to the victim and no further complaints were leveled against him.
IFB Special Agent Andrew Herrera and Chief Special Agent Leo Montaño both attended the court hearing. During the 90-day window, Herrera located another victim (who paid Porter $200 prior to the APD complaint being filed and who had not yet been repaid). Prior to the judge dismissing the APD complaint against Porter for complying with her terms, CSA Montaño, SA Herrera and IFB Chief Prosecutor Alan Rackstraw met with Porter regarding the second victim. Porter was given the opportunity to make restitution on the spot, which he did, prompting the IFB to drop any further criminal action.
The investigation culminated with SA Herrera meeting with representatives of the Albuquerque Film board and the Organization of Independent Film Makers to provide training on how to recognize legitimate certificates of insurance and what steps to take to confirm that legitimate insurance has been placed for their benefit, according to the IFB.
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