10 of the craziest claims of 2018:
Public adjuster Jorge Fausto Espinosa was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a number of charges including racketeering and insurance fraud after his years-long scheme came to a just end. As an independent adjuster, Espinosa earned a percent of insurance payouts he helped line up for client homeowners through his firm Nationwide Adjusters. The crime netted roughly 30% of the insurance payout. The more damage, the more Espinosa profited, so the South Florida man recruited dozens of homeowners to burn or flood their places, in the end totaling about $14 million in inflated insurance claims.
Pilot Theodore R. Wright orchestrated a series of fraudulent insurance claim schemes almost too stupid to believe. In his first fraud, Wright risked his own life when he purposefully downed his Beechcraft Baron airplane, intently crash-landing and sinking the aircraft to collect a claim payment. Committed to his fraud scheme, Wright went on to intentionally destroy yet another plane, a Lamborghini and a 45-foot sailboat, totaling nearly $940,000 of inflated insurance claims. Wright and his co-conspirators Shane Gordon, Raymond Fosdick and Edward Delima, were sentenced to more than 5 years in prison. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Mustafa Zabana was an ambitious businessman who owned Bruno’s Pizza in Enfield, Conn. Zabana badly wanted to renovate the pizzeria but lacked the funds – so he set it on fire. After the arson scheme severely damaged the pizzeria and surrounding shops, Zabana received only an initial $5,000 check from his insurer before investigators discovered the insurance plot. Zabana was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and faces deportation. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Former NFL linebacker Marcus Buckley earned himself two years in federal prison after fraudulently inflating workers-compensation claims for lingering injuries that dogged him for years after he retired. Buckley was ordered to repay $1.6 million in stolen insurance money. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Tragically, this fraud cost infinitely more than any claim payment. Two firefighters, Larry Leggio and John Mesh, lost their lives in an arson blaze orchestrated by nail salon owner and five-time arsonist Thu Hong Nguyen. In her fourth arson plot, Nguyen poured gallons of acetone and alcohol throughout the LN Nails and Spa in Kansas City and set it ablaze – just as she had done to four other nail salons. Insurance paid $268,000 for the claim before Nguyen got caught and sentenced to 74 years in Missouri state prison. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Nearly 80 fraudsters were found guilty for their roles in a major insurance scam in the U.K. A series of trials found 77 participants guilty on charges of auto insurance fraud stemming from a ‘crash for cash’ scheme staged auto accidents involving 57 different vehicles. The Insurance Fraud Bureau and local police launched an investigation that found fraudsters purposefully crashed cars in order to submit exaggerated and falsified claims in an attempt to increase payouts for vehicle damage and personal injury.
Senior investigating officer at Gwent Police, Steve Maloney, said the investigation assisted their partners in the insurance industry to prevent future offenses of this nature going undetected. He added that crash for cash scams have a real impact on society and cost the honest policyholders almost £350 million each year.
Lawyers Andrew Rubinstein and Jason Dalley were sentenced to six years in prison for their role in a staged auto crash ring that involved medical clinic owners, chiropractors, attorneys and others. The complex operation wound up totaling $23 million in bogus whiplash claims from 10 auto insurers in South Florida before the fraud squad got busted. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Windel Lester of West Virginia had a
unique take on family bonding activities. As a local hardware store owner and realtor, Lester and his entire family took part in an insurance scheme that earned them $556,000 in claim payments after they bought and burned down three mobile homes. Now, the entire Lester clan face up to dozens of years in federal prison when sentenced. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Three men are serving life sentences for the deadly consequences of their insurance fraud plot that killed four innocent bystanders and one witness who was left to die in an arson attack. Seeking to collect £300,000 ($376,000 U.S.) in insurance payouts for a weeks-old policy, Hawkar Hassan, Aram Kurd and Arkan Ali planted and set off an explosion in the Polish supermarket Kurd owned in Leicester where five were killed. (Photo: Shutterstock)
A former Dayton, Ohio postal worker made prosecutors’ jobs easy when he exposed his own workers’ comp fraud. Jerry French was ordered to serve four years probation and pay restitution of $20,000 to the Postal Service Accounts Center after he collected $94,000 in workers’ compensation claims, all while competing in a total of 35 motorcycle races, clearly refuting any existence of French’s "ankle injury." (Photo: Shutterstock)
As long as there is insurance, there will be fraud, committed by would-be scammers, both amateur and trained.
Insurance fraud accounts for 10% of all property & casualty losses and loss adjustment expenses per year, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates. In turn, fraud costs P&C insurers roughly $34 billion per year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I).
For auto insurers, auto claim fraud and “buildup” (inflating legitimate claims) cost between $5.6—7.7 billion in excess payments in the U.S. in 2012. These excess payments accounted for 13-17% of total payments under all five main private-passenger auto injury coverages, according to statistics provided by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.
Fraudsters often get caught, making headlines and earning attention for their ridiculous plots and frequently poor execution. But sometimes fraud schemes carry costs greater than any claim payment. Aside from serious jail time and financial penalties, some fraud schemes cause serious injuries.
In the slideshow above, read about fraud schemes that include arson, destruction of property, purposeful injury and more, placing them among 10 of the craziest claims from 2018.
Related: Georgia Insurance Commissioner indicted in $2M fraud scheme