A jury on Wednesday convicted a Spokane, Wash. man of insurance fraud and attempted theft after claiming $200,000 for a snow-damaged patio cover.
Keith R. Scribner, 48, is set to be sentenced April 16 in Spokane County Superior Court.
The cover is estimated to have been worth roughly $4,000, according to investigators.
“Insurance fraud isn’t the victimless crime that some people pretend it is,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, whose anti-fraud unit investigated the case, said in a statement. “When people lie on a claim, trying to get a big payout, it unfairly drives up costs for honest policyholders.”
The charges stemmed from an insurance claim Scribner handled on behalf of his mother. In July 2009, she filed a claim with Liberty Mutual Insurance and said a patio roof at a home she’d purchased had collapsed due to the weight of snow six months earlier. The policy covered “like kind and quality” replacement, according to Kreidler’s office.
Scribner told the insurer that the patio cover was an extensive structure, spanning the entire length of the patio and wrapping around the home’s chimney, and he sent three bids to replace the cover as he described it. The bids ranged from $195,586 to $213,815. The company claims representative initially thought the bids were some kind of joke.
According to investigators, Liberty Mutual asked for photos of the home that showed the structure or the snow damage, but Scribner said there weren’t any.
However, a claims handler found a photo of the home on a real estate website, and it showed a much more modest patio cover than what Scribner described, according to investigators.
At that point, the company launched a fraud investigation and notified Kreidler’s Special Investigations Unit.
The investigators discovered that Scribner had met with an appraiser in 2008. The appraiser had taken photos of the patio cover. A real estate agent interviewed by investigators described the cover as being “small and nothing special or significant.”
The previous homeowner also provided investigators with photos of the patio cover. That cover was originally canvas, and when that became troublesome to remove each year the homeowner bought a polycarbonate cover for roughly $300.
A local builder, who was provided with measurements and photos of the original structure, drew up replacement bids at the request of a state fraud investigator that ranged from $3,913 to $4,782.
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