Insurance fraud seems like it might be an easy thing to do. Insurance companies are often so huge, one wonders how they might not even notice a few mistakes in your favor. But the fact is that insurance companies have people who make it their full time job to sniff out fraud, ensuring that they keep a tight bottom line. And while they may not catch every tiny little fudge, you can be sure they are on the hunt for major offenders such as the ones on this list. Check out these famous insurance fraud cases that surely carried a huge bounty.
- HCA/Medicare: In 2000 and 2002, HCA pleaded guilty to 14 felonies, including fraudulently billing Medicare as well as other programs. HCA had inflated the seriousness of diagnoses, filed false cost reports, and paid kickbacks to doctors to refer patients. HCA had to pay the US government $631 million plus interest, as well as $17.5 million to state Medicaid agencies, on top of $250 million already paid to Medicare for outstanding expense claims. It was the largest fraud settlement in US history, with law suits reaching $2 billion in total.
- John Darwin's Death: John Darwin faked his death in a canoeing accident, turning up five years later. He'd been secretly living in his house and the house next door, while his wife claimed the money on his life insurance. They were both sentenced to six years in prison, but released on probation. BBC created a TV drama about their story called Canoe Man.
- The horse murders scandal: Between the mid 1970s and mid 1990s many expensive horses were involved in insurance fraud. These expensive horses, often show jumpers, were placed on insurance for accident or death, and killed for the insurance money. The number of horses killed in this manner is believed to be at least 50 and possibly as high as 100. It was the biggest scandal in equestrian sports, resulting in the death of a whistleblower, Helen Brach, in addition to the horses.
- John Mango's fire: A Toronto businessman, John Mango hired someone to set fire to his business for the insurance money. Things got quite out of hand, killing one person during the fire and forcing many families to leave the area until the fire could be put out. Mango was charged with second degree murder on top of his fraud charges.
- Swoop and squat: In the 90s, car insurance fraud ran rampant. Cars would purposely get into accidents with innocent people on the road, hoping to score insurance money, and often, they did. These accidents frequently injured drivers, and some were even fatal. These accidents usually earned the orchestrators about $20,000 each.
- Michael Jackson's prescriptions: Lloyds of London has recently filed suit to invalidate an insurance policy taken out by Michael Jackson. The policy covered his "This Is It" tour in the event that it was not successful. The payout was to be $17.5 million, but Lloyds argues that it is invalid because Michael Jackson did not disclose prescription drugs on his application. As Jackson died from an overdose, Lloyds is claiming deception.
- The Titanic: Everyone knows the story of the Titanic, but not everyone realizes that some believe it's part of a conspiracy to pull off a huge insurance fraud. The Olympic, Titanic's sister ship, was damaged and rendered useless during one of its voyages-and some believe that the Titanic as it sunk was actually the Olympic. Conspiracy theorists note several inconsistencies in the performance and construction of the "Titanic" that indicate the Titanic sinking was a case of swapped ships.
- Cooperman art theft hoax: Would you steal your own art for money? LA ophthalmologist Steven Cooperman did. He arranged for a Picasso and a Monet to be stolen from his home in an attempt to collect $17.5 million in insurance money. He was convicted in July 1999.
- Martin Frankel: Martin Frankel's insurance fraud is just one in a long list of financial crimes. He was sentenced to 200 months in prison due to over $200 million in losses to insurance companies. He eventually plead guilty to 24 federal counts of racketeering and conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud.
- Bristol-Myers Squibb kickbacks: Regulators in California have gone after Bristol-Myers Squibb for insurance fraud, among other offenses. The lawsuit accuses Bristol-Myers of making payments to high-prescribing physicians, targeting and profiting on the private insurance industry. It is the largest health insurance fraud to be pursued by a California state agency. Additionally, in 2007, the pharmaceutical company paid $515 million to settle with federal and state governments against allegations of kickbacks to defraud Medicare and Medicaid.
- Dr. Gupta's mystery procedures: There's a nationwide manhunt launched by the FBI looking for Dr. Gautam Gupta. The complaint against him alleges that he submitted claims to Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Medicaid for unnecessary procedures, and even ones that were never performed. The fraudulent insurance claims from Dr. Gupta reached nearly $25 million.
- Millionaire insurance fraud: Charles Ingram was first made famous as a fraud when he cheated on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, using coded coughs to win. But his deception was further exposed when he was convicted of insurance fraud as well. He placed a suspicious £30,000 burglary claim, and was found to be dishonest, ultimately winning two guilty charges for his fraud.
- TAP Pharmaceuticals fraud: The Department of Justice got involved with this pharmaceutical insurance fraud case. TAP Pharmaceuticals engaged in fraudulent drug pricing and marketing conduct, as well as filing fraudulent claims with Medicare and Medicaid. They agreed to pay $559 million to the government for those claims, as part of an $875 million settlement for all criminal charges and civil liabilities.
- I get knocked down, but I get up again…and knocked down again 48 more times: With 49 cases, Isabel Parker earned her title as the queen of the slip and fall scam. During her career, she received claims totaling $500,000.
- Torching the Malibu: What do you do if you don't want to pay on your car anymore? If you're teacher Tramesha Lashon Fox, you get your students to set your car on fire in exchange for passing grades. She'd hoped to get insurance money, but instead lost her job and served 90 days in jail.
Story by Carol Brown