America's most notorious insurance schemers have earned leadership of their moral wasteland by induction into the Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame.
The No-Class of 2014 was chosen by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. The Shamers come with a warning sign: “Do Not Touch: High Revoltage.”
They represent the most brazen, vicious or klutziest insurance cons of last year. Small wonder; they inflicted costly fakes and pains on consumers and insurers throughout the nation.
America's pharaohs of fraud possess an uncanny drive to connive in pursuit of the immaculate deception. But the newly inducted meaculprits received a loud break-up call: They were convicted last year thanks to the tireless efforts of fraud fighters.
The Hall of Shame draws public attention to an $80-billion annual fraud spree that many consumers and policymakers think is a harmless and victimless crime.
Most Americans are honest, but unacceptably large percentages tolerate fraud — a kind of outrage deficit disorder, research shows. The Hall of Shame presents true-life stories to convince more consumers that insurance fraud is deviant and intolerable behavior.
Storytelling is humankind's oldest and most-effective form of communication. Our brains are biologically wired to think in narratives. Stories also are 20 times more likely to be remembered than hard facts.
Humans thus have fashioned stories to interpret and remember events since the first cave people sat around the campfire to talk about the day's woolly mammoth hunt.
Herewith is the hunt for the Coalition's newest moral invertebrates, the No-Class of 2014:
Dr. Spyros Panos | Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The orthopedist made more than $35 million in false claims for thousands of botched and faked surgeries. He rushed up to 20 surgeries in a day — as many as orthos normally perform in a month. One surgery lasted seven minutes.
Panos bounced from operating room to operating room in quick sequence. He performed substandard surgeries, or just sliced open patients and stitched them up without making repairs. Panos also billed routine arthroscopic procedures as expensive open surgeries.
Christine Steele had two useless knee surgeries and has been unable to work full-time ever since.
Chris Hanson never recovered after three surgeries, including two knee repairs. He can't work at age 55 and has trouble walking. Panos also operated on both Achilles tendons of a senior. She is in constant pain and can't even play with her grandchildren.
Panos received 4½ years in federal prison and faces about 260 malpractice suits.
Angela Garcia | Cleveland, Ohio
Garcia let her infant daughters, Nyeemah and Nija, die in a house fire she set for just $64,000 worth of insurance money. Garcia had overvalued the contents of her home on a renter's insurance claim.
She made claims for possessions she didn't have. Garcia also removed valuables before the fire. The girls had died of smoke inhalation by the time firefighters pulled them from their upstairs bedroom.
Garcia tied Nyeemah with the cord from a window blind to keep her from escaping the fire, prosecutors charged. She showed no grief or other emotions, freely socialized afterwards, and filed her claim within weeks of the girls’ deaths.
The fire may have started from an unattended candle in the dining room, Garcia claimed. Yet arson investigators found two burn patterns started by a flammable liquid.
Garcia also said she crashed through a second-floor window and slid down the porch roof to the ground. Yet she had little or no soot on her, and required no treatment for smoke inhalation. Nor did she have cuts from shattering the windowpanes.
Garcia no longer wanted her children and had tried to give away custody, prosecutors also charged. She was convicted of insurance fraud and killing the kids. Garcia received life in prison.
Andy Lee House | Galveston, Texas
House drove his rare Bugatti Veyron into a swampy lagoon to collect $2.2 million. He told his insurer that a low-flying pelican forced him to swerve off the road into the muck.
But a car enthusiast just happened to be driving by and was awed by the sleek Bugatti. He videotaped House roaring into the lagoon. The video shows no pelican in sight. Nor were there skid marks or other evidence that House tried to brake.
He also left the engine running for 15 minutes in the lagoon. The salt water filled up the engine and ruined the vehicle. House lied that he was too busy fighting mosquitoes to turn off the engine.
The Veyron is one of the world's fastest street-legal production cars. It has an everyday top speed of 213 miles per hour — and was built to reach 253 mph. Only 300 were made. House pleaded guilty and faces up to 20 years in federal prison when sentenced.
Fraud fighters created an escalator of evidence that led this year's shamers to certain justice. Americans now have more benchmarks of bleak to illustrate this crime's rule of flaw and disorder.
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