December 31, 2013
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in 2013 sent 11 insurance fraud cases to the court system that resulted in 32 felony charges and prevented more than $237,000 in immediate loss in 11 Washington counties.
The criminal charges included filing false insurance claims, conspiracy, forgery, money laundering, and first- and second-degree theft. Courts ordered more than $125,000 of restitution and fines. The bulk of the cases occurred in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties.
“Insurance crime is not something we take lightly in Washington state,” said Kreidler. “Fraudulent claims raise costs for law-abiding consumers. We work closely with insurance companies to protect consumers from being victimized by scammers.”
Some of the high-profile cases this year:
- Keith Scribner of Spokane was convicted of insurance fraud and theft in March. He filed a claim on behalf of his mother, whose patio cover was damaged by heavy snow. He attempted to convince Liberty Mutual to pay upwards of $200,000 to replace the cover, which was worth only about $4,000. Scribner misrepresented the size and price of the original patio cover, but was caught when fraud investigators found an old appraisal that proved the original patio cover was a small, canvas cover, rather than a structure that spanned the length of the entire patio and wrapped around the chimney. Scribner was sentenced to 240 hours of community service, 15 days of electronic home monitoring and $7,000 in fines.
- Kevin Kolenda sold insurance across the nation for golf tournament hole-in-one prizes. In Washington, he failed to pay several claims. In October 2013, he pled guilty to two counts of selling insurance without a license and one count of first-degree theft. He was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution. Kolenda is a repeat offender; similar complaints have been filed against him in several other states and he’s been prosecuted and barred from selling insurance in Connecticut and Washington. Kolenda will be sentenced in King County Superior Court in February 2014.
- Jenny Balsz of Colville pleaded guilty in May 2013 to insurance fraud after making false claims for more than $20,000 after a fire destroyed her house. Investigators were unable to determine the cause of the blaze , but Safeco and SIU investigators determined that Balsz tried to claim furniture and a clarinet were destroyed – items that she never owned. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail and $850 in fines and fees.
- Seattle attorney Edward Callow and former insurance adjuster Fariborz (Romeo) Rahrovi, also of Seattle, were charged in December 2013 with first-degree theft, money laundering, perjury and obtaining a signature by duress, all felonies. The pair are accused of defrauding a Nationwide Insurance customer who was disabled in an auto accident. Nationwide paid its client $525,000, but Callow and Rahrovi are accused of keeping $200,000 and $165,000, respectively. Kreidler’s special investigators are interested in hearing from others who may have been a victim of Callow. A warrant has been issued for Callow’s arrest after he failed to appear for his initial hearing. Rahrovi will appear in King County Superior Court on Jan. 9.
The SIU investigates criminal insurance fraud in Washington state, receiving an average of 200 referrals per month. The unit works closely with insurance companies, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), county prosecutors and the Washington state Attorney General’s Office.
In 2013, the SIU handled 78 criminal cases; 35 search warrants were served on various banks, Internet service providers, offices and other businesses in support of these investigations.
You can report suspected insurance fraud on the Insurance Commissioner’s website.