Filed Under:Claims, Investigative & Forensics

The Not-So-Invisible Circus

Inducting the year’s Most Shameless Fraudsters

Hold your noses; bolt your front doors; and hide your children. America’s most-brazen, cunning, or just plain dumb insurance criminals have earned election to America’s most notorious thiefdom, the 2011 Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame.

These cellar dwellers lurking on the dark side of the moral universe were either convicted or experienced other legal closure this year.

Unholy Insurance Con
A pastor from Baltimore, Md. had a developmentally disabled, blind man killed for $1.4 million in life insurance money.

Kevin Pushia was tens of thousands of dollars in debt and faced foreclosure on several properties.

Shooting Pain
A Los Angeles, Calif. school police officer shot himself to scam workers’ comp money. Jeff Stenroos radioed that a pony-tailed burglary suspect in a black leather jacket pumped a bullet into his bullet-proof vest while he patrolled a public school’s perimeter.

Hundreds of officers combed the area. Nine schools also were locked down. More than 9,000 students were ordered to stay in their classrooms for up to 10 hours. They had little food and no bathroom breaks for up to six hours. Some had to use trash cans as toilets. An 8-square-mile area also was locked down, snarling traffic and disrupting people’s lives.

Fake Deaths, Real Fraud
Bridgette Buckner received 10 years in state prison for stealing life-insurance money by lying that her child and husband had died. The Chicago, Ill.-area woman had life policies through her employer, Hallmark Services. First she said her preschool child, Briajay, had died recently of an illness. But the youngster had actually died four years prior. Buckner gave her insurer a fake death certificate and collected $10,000 in life insurance money. Five months later, she said her hubby was shot and killed in the line of duty as an FBI agent. She filed a $15,000 death claim.

Buckner provided an investigator with vivid detail—her husband was shot in the lungs and died while awaiting surgery. But the fraud investigator was a former FBI agent. He grew suspicious because he would have heard about the husband’s death through the FBI grapevine. Buckner didn't place an obituary, and officials couldn’t even locate a burial plot. Her hubby never was an FBI agent and was quite alive. The couple was estranged, and he was unaware of the plot. Buckner skipped out on bail and lived as a fugitive before turning herself in.

Night of the Undead
How sad that Jim Davis died of a heart attack. He had a proper funeral, and was laid to rest for eternity in a Los Angeles, Calif. cemetery. But Davis didn’t die. In fact, he didn’t exist. A fraud ring with mortuary worker Jean Crump among the lead players tried to steal $1.2 million in life insurance money by forging death certificates, buying a burial plot, staging a funeral, and burying an elaborate but empty casket. The gang even hired fake mourners to attend the service in case anyone was watching.

When insurers started getting nosy, a panicky Crump and her sidekick dug up the casket, and filled it with cow parts and a mannequin so mortuary workers wouldn’t get suspicious when carrying it. The pair then had “Davis” and the casket cremated. Next, they filed fake documents stating the remains were cremated and buried at sea. Crump and her crony bribed a doctor with $50,000 to create fake medical records to support the phony death.

Deadly Dessert
Tami Duvall poisoned her estranged husband, Alan, for a $100,000 life policy she had bought just a month before he died.

The Columbus, Ind.-area woman slipped morphine and muscle relaxants into his dessert of whipped cream and crushed chocolate cookies. Duvall called 911 the next morning, saying she found Alan dead on their back porch. He drank himself to death, she claimed. He had a blood alcohol level of 0.436 percent.

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