SAN DIEGO INSURANCE FRAUD ATTORNEY
Strong Defense for Fraud Charges
Insurance fraud and the criminal prosecution for crimes relating to fraud and white collar crimes are becoming far more common. Prosecutors from the district attorney’s office have for years been aggressively pursuing criminal cases against individuals alleged to have committed or attempted to commit a fraud.
If you have recently been accused of insurance fraud in California, you are probably wondering what the implications are and what options are available to you. Insurance fraud is a serious crime – don’t waste time when it comes to protecting yourself and your legal rights. Similar charges have torn lives apart in the blink of an eye and it’s critical you recognize everything at risk.
The choices you make now will impact your future in a powerful and lasting way; do what you can to safeguard yourself and your reputation. In this article, you will learn what you need to know regarding these accusations and why you need to contact an experienced San Diego insurance fraud lawyer.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED INSURANCE FRAUD?
Before moving forward with any decisions, you need to know exactly what insurance fraud is. The state of California defines insurance fraud as the filing of a false insurance claim to illegally extract benefits from an insurance company.
The law covers all types of insurance claims, including auto, life, health, property and more. Although the definition is simple, the law is broad and covers a range of offenses. Exaggerating property damage, staging the theft of an insured item, and filing misleading claims are a few examples of what the state can try to prosecute an individual for.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN INSURANCE COMPANY ACCUSES YOU OF FRAUD?
As an honest citizen, you pay your monthly premiums and only file claims if you’ve experienced a covered event. You are likely asking yourself why you should be concerned about insurance fraud. The government estimates this crime costs almost $40 billion in lost compensation, and your insurance bill increases each time a scammer plays the system. To avoid losing money, insurance companies will often pursue possible fraud cases relentlessly. You don’t want to be caught in the crossfire.
Because the laws related to insurance fraud are broad, one mistake is all it takes to get you into trouble. It’s not uncommon for people to misunderstand their policy and find themselves in hot water. Some individuals can clear everything up, but not everyone is that lucky. Unless you want to gamble with your future, these situations will demand your immediate and full attention.
If an insurance company feels that you have committed fraud, they will launch an investigation to collect as much information as possible. The nature of the policy, date of the accident and police report are a few things they will take into consideration. The insurance company can investigate suspects before identifying the situation so that they can build a strong case. When this happens, the odds will be stacked against you making it much more difficult to protect yourself.
WHAT CHARGES COULD I FACE?
Insurance fraud in California is generally charged as two offenses for each fraudulent claim. The penal code does not distinguish between the types of insurance claim made if an investigator or prosecutor believe there was criminal conduct. A charge of insurance fraud includes CA PC 550(a) which relates to presenting or making a false claim to an insurer. CA PC 550(b) relates to the actual statement, writing or other action taken by an individual in support of the fraudulent claim.
All insurance fraud cases are charged as felonies. The possible penalty for a conviction includes not only fines and serious jail time but also restitution. For the prosecutor, the goal is always an admission of guilt and getting money back to the insurance companies who covered any claims.
FALSE CLAIMS & FALSE STATEMENTS TO INSURER
Someone facing criminal charges for insurance fraud should know the specific type of crimes that can be charged:
- CA PC 550(a)(1) is the crime of presenting a false claim for loss under an insurance policy. This offense requires some proof that the claimed incident or loss never actually occurred. Also, this can be charged if the person making a claim changes the facts of an incident. These incidents can include misstating who was driving a car during an accident. Often times an insured includes damaged items in a claim to the insurance company that were not actually damaged.
- CA PC 550(b)(1) is a more specific insurance fraud crime that deals with statements or writings made by a defendant. When fraud investigators speaking to defendants they will usually record the phone call or meeting. While the statements are not always made under penalty of perjury they are recorded to ensure that the insurance company has a record. Statements made which are intentionally false can trigger this criminal section. Written statements related to an incident such as a theft or property damage can also be used under this law.
- CA PC550(b)(2) – “Prepare or make any written or oral statement that is intended to be presented to any insurer or any insurance claimant in connection with, or in support of or opposition to, any claim or payment or other benefit pursuant to an insurance policy, knowing that the statement contains any false or misleading information concerning any material fact”
- CA PC 550(b)(3) is the making of written or verbal statements to conceal or mislead about the facts of an event. Knowingly making false statements about an event or failing to disclose information necessary for the claim can be considered a Felony. Like any insurance fraud crime, the prosecutor must be able to prove intent and a desire to mislead for fraudulent purposes. The mistake of facts and lack of intent do not amount to a criminal offense.
Most criminal defense lawyers do not handle complex matters like insurance fraud. An insurance fraud lawyer should be highly experienced with these types of cases. A defendant should know that if their career and livelihood are on the line that their criminal defense attorney has experience presenting such a case to a jury.
HOW INSURANCE FRAUD IS DEFENDED
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney George Gedulin on how he defends insurance fraud, “My goal in all of these cases is to safeguard my client against claims of criminal wrongdoing when they, in fact, did nothing wrong. The insurance and claim system can be complicated and making statements under oath and providing letters often puts our clients in jeopardy of criminal prosecution without them knowing.
The crucial part of any criminal case is that the prosecution must prove intent. To prove that someone acted criminally in an insurance fraud case there has to be evidence that a claim made with the insurer was false and that some statement or writing was made to support this false claim.”
The mistake of information and inadvertent misstatements should never be the basis for a criminal insurance fraud case. One of the most common cases that an attorney will defend is where a defendant is accused of presenting multiple claims to an insurer for damage to their home or vehicle. Often times, a husband and a wife will call an insurer to make a claim not knowing the other has already done so. Strictly under the law, a prosecutor can charge Insurance Fraud under CA PC 550(a)(2). This occurs more often than most of the public imagines. Where a person has multiple insurance carriers it is not beyond reason that multiple claims can be made to different insurers.
Insurance fraud cases, like all white-collar crime defense, requires a meticulous attention to detail and experience defending complex fraud allegations. Most white-collar crime cases relating to fraud, like tax fraud or insurance, require time and a details-driven San Diego criminal defense attorney who can parse through thousands of pages of discovery.
The LONG-TERM IMPACT OF INSURANCE FRAUD ARREST
Insurance fraud is aggressively prosecuted in the state by special divisions of the DA’s office. These departments work differently than other criminal divisions because their goal is to support the interests of private businesses like insurance companies. Recovery of funds paid for fraudulent claims or investigation is often what drives these cases.
If you are facing criminal prosecution speak immediately with a fraud attorney in San Diego who has years of experience successfully defending insurance fraud and white collar fraud cases.
THE INSURANCE FRAUD BUSINESS
The defense of insurance fraud cases is complex and unique among criminal offenses. Many think of insurance fraud as a white-collar crime similar to many other fraud or financial crimes. The main difference in how these cases are prosecuted is the resources a prosecutor has available.
There are agencies in California who are funded at the State and local level whose sole purpose is to look for fraudulent insurance claims. State agencies under the direction of the Attorney Generals office have detective, attorney’s and special prosecutors who investigate thousands of insurance fraud claims. Long before a criminal case is brought to the district attorney there has been a long investigation by public and private officers. The work of an insurance fraud attorney involves more than knowing how to defend and win a case. Knowing the motivations of prosecutors and insurance companies is key to success in these cases.
Insurance fraud claims can stem from any scenario where there is a contract for insurance. This includes homeowners insurance, auto insurance, health insurance or other loss coverage. Anyone who files a claim for loss or damage under his or her insurance coverage is under close scrutiny.
Multiple departments within any insurance company always review claims of injury from an auto accident or damage to a vehicle. For example, someone who has in the past made multiple claims on their auto insurance could be flagged as a potential fraudulent claimant. Even without any other indications that a claim is false, the insurance company places the insured into a fraud review.
Suspicious claims for theft or damage to items in a home or business are a big problem for insurance companies. Insurance fraud adds up to millions in lost profits for insurers every year. These companies spend a lot of money on investigators and law enforcement to check up on every large claim of loss to avoid fraudulent claims. Insurance companies also lobby and help fund State-run organizations that are tasked with investigating insurance fraud.
These agencies employee sworn officers who have the same authority to investigate and arrest crimes like any police force. Long before a case comes to the desk of a prosecutor these officers have created files on false claims that are thousands of pages.
HOW IS INSURANCE FRAUD HANDLED IN COURT?
Most of the crimes relating to insurance fraud are found in Penal Code 550(a) and 550(b). These statutes cover many of the felony crimes relating to insurance fraud. These can include allegations of one false claim or multiple claims over a period of time. Regardless of the insurance fraud stemming from an auto accident, theft or destruction of property the law is very similar.
Most fundamental to an allegation of criminal conduct is the element of intent. The State must be able to prove that someone presented a false claim to an insurance company and they did so knowing the claim was false when it was made. The most important aspect of the crime is intent.
These cases come down to what a person knew when they made statements to an insurance company and what was the intent behind presenting that information. For example making a claim under a homeowner’s policy for damage to items in a home from a burglary requires several things. The insurance company would expect receipts, photos or other proof that these items were actually in the home at the time of the loss and that they belonged to the insured.
Making statements to an insurance company that multiple expensive computers and cameras were stolen from the home when they in fact never existed can be considered a criminal act. The intent can be innocent however, which is why a defense attorney is so important in these cases. Explaining a situation to a Judge at a critical hearing against relentless investigators and DA’s can be daunting even for experienced counsel.
Often times an innocent claim with legitimate loss is wrongly flagged as fraudulent. The sad example of a wife who’s wedding ring goes missing from the home. The family files a police report and cannot find the ring despite a diligent search. The husband isn’t sure the ring is actually missing or stolen, since his wife has lost it many times in the past.
One month after filing the claim for loss with insurance the husband finds the ring in the home. The husband informs the company that in fact the ring was found and he can withdraw his claim. Was there ever any intent to make a false claim?
The insurance company never paid out any loss on the ring, however, a claim was presented. Did the wife or husband intend to present false information for a financial gain? These cases are complicated and even experienced insurance fraud investigators get it wrong.
CHARGES OF FRAUD & EMBEZZLEMENT FOR INSURANCE FRAUD
Criminal cases of Insurance fraud that involve loses over $65,000 can trigger very serious charges. If the allegedly fraudulent claims are over this amount the State can ask a judge to impose additional jail time for anyone who is convicted. Even when an insurance company paid nothing on a claim, the question is what was the value of the potential claim. Often fraudulent insurance claims for home damage or expensive items can exceed $100,000.
If it is proven at trial that someone committed a pattern of false claims that rise to the level of a felony then years can be added to a sentence.
PUNISHMENT FOR CRIMINAL INSURANCE FRAUD
The insurance fraud statutes permit a Judge to sentence someone found guilty of the crime up to 5 years in State Prison. There is always a sentencing range for insurance fraud cases between two and five years. Insurance fraud can also be charged as a misdemeanor which usually eliminates the potential for jail time. Time can be added to the sentence if the amount of loss to the insurer was significant. Loses exceeding $500,000 can potentially added another five years on top of the original sentence.
For many defendants the prospect of being convicted for any fraud offense is unthinkable. Those with professional licenses or working in the finance industry know how devastating a fraud conviction can be. Even a finding of guilt for misdemeanor insurance fraud is not an option.
Those defendants in the United States on a visa or green card can face deportation and exclusion from the United States for an insurance fraud conviction. Insurance fraud falls into the category of “moral turpitude” crimes which are a serious category for the immigration services.
PENALTIES & PUNISHMENT FOR DEFRAUDING AN INSURANCE PROVIDER
California Penal Code 548 states that those who are convicted of insurance fraud can face fines of up to $50,000, up to five years behind bars and an additional two years for every repeat offense. But you don’t even need to commit insurance fraud to find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
As an insurance provider, if you are aware of a client who plans to commit insurance fraud, the state can charge you with solicitation for accepting that client’s business or for referring that client to someone else. If a jury finds you guilty of solicitation, you could face up to three years in prison. Even if you have no knowledge of the client’s intent to commit fraud, there is no way to ensure that the authorities won’t view you as a suspect in the case.
Although insurance companies occasionally pursue misdemeanor charges, this is rare. You can expect to face felony charges by the time that you are forced to stand before the judge and jury. In addition to prison time, a felony charge will strip you of many of your rights; you will no longer be able to own a firearm, vote or serve as a member of a jury.
A felony charge will stop you from collecting government benefits and enlisting in the military. For anyone who has a felony conviction, life will never be the same, you don’t want to fall into this trap.
RESTITUTION FOR INSURANCE FRAUD
The penal code also requires that a guilty defendant pay back any restitution demanded by the insurance company. If a false claim was actually paid out the exact amount can be made part of the criminal judgment. In addition, the insurance company can claim restitution for time spent by its investigators who looked into the fraudulent claims. The investigation costs can also run into the thousands of dollars.
What is difficult for many defendants to understand is that no money needs to have been paid by the insurance company to constitute a crime. Where there was intent and a false claim was made this is enough to raise criminal charges.
A PERSONALIZED APPROACH TO INSURANCE FRAUD DEFENSE
When an insurance company charges you or a loved one with insurance fraud, take the correct steps towards protection. You don’t want to lose years of your life behind bars or have your life turned upside down with a felony charge. By enlisting the services of an aggressive insurance fraud lawyer in San Diego, you are taking a big step in securing your future. The Law Office of George Gedulin has the experience and training to give you the most success. We will work hard to let you know you are in good hands.
We acknowledge that laws and policy limits can be a challenge to understand, and we firmly believe that one mistake should not ruin a person’s life. Once you decide to team up with The Law Office of George Gedulin, we will promptly get to work looking at the details so that we can build a solid defense.
Our personalized approach to criminal defense will ensure that all aspects of your case and background are considered. When you let us worry about the legal aspects of these accusations, you can focus on getting your life back under control.
Pick up the phone to contact us today at (858) 281-4605.
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