September 6, 2016
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Two people pleaded guilty and one person was charged in Eastern Washington last month in insurance fraud cases investigated by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU).
Philip J. Snider, 30, of Richland, pleaded guilty to misrepresentation in application for insurance, a gross misdemeanor, in Benton County Superior Court. He was sentenced to 80 hours of community service, two years of supervision, and to pay $4,500 in restitution to Allstate and court fees.
Snider was a licensed insurance producer at a Kennewick insurance agency and sold Allstate insurance. He wrote an Allstate homeowner policy for himself for a house he was purchasing in early 2013. He modified the policy to lower the premium, increasing the deductible to $5,000. Three days after he took possession of the home on Feb. 15, extensive water damage occurred during a renovation. That evening, after his office was closed for the day, Snider went to work and lowered his homeowner policy deductible to $500. The next day, Snider filed a $37,000 claim with Allstate for the damage. In the end, Allstate paid Snider $4,500 he was not entitled to because he fraudulently modified the deductible. Allstate reported Snider’s activity to Kreidler in July 2013; the insurance agency terminated Snider’s employment in August. Kreidler’s office revoked Snider’s insurance producer license in July 2014.
James Thomas III, 40, of Spokane, pleaded guilty to filing a false insurance claim, a felony, in Spokane County Superior Court. He was sentenced to four months of electronic home monitoring and to pay court fees.
Thomas was charged along with Crystal L. Wheeler, 40, also of Spokane. According to the investigation, Wheeler filed an auto insurance claim with Safeco in September 2014 that her 1936 Ford truck was damaged by an acquaintance who backed into it. The investigation determined the Ford was actually damaged by Thomas, who asked the acquaintance to file the claim on his insurance and then split the settlement. The acquaintance refused, and said Wheeler and Thomas obtained his auto insurance policy information and submitted the claim without his knowledge while he was out of state. Wheeler is scheduled for trial in Spokane County Superior Court in September.
Martha E. Garibay, 36, of Chelan, was charged in Chelan County Superior Court with two felonies: first-degree attempted theft and filing a false insurance claim. According to the investigation, Garibay purchased an auto insurance policy from Progressive Insurance on April 13, 2015. The next day, she filed a claim for damage to her 2010 Ford Explorer that she said had occurred that day in a collision with a deer. During the investigation, Garibay’s employer reported that she called work on Sunday, April 12, and said she had been in an auto collision that day and wouldn’t be able to come into work on April 13, because she didn’t have transportation. The date of the collision that she reported to Progressive was April 14. The amount of the claim minus her deductible was $8,027. Garibay is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 14.
Kreidler’s SIU investigates insurance fraud and works with the Attorney General’s Office and local prosecutors to prosecute criminal cases. Insurance fraud costs the average family $400 to $700 per year in increased premiums. Consumers can report suspected insurance fraud on the Insurance Commissioner’s website.
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