Editors' Cuts

A New Recipe for Fraud: Caskets Filled with Cow Parts

Pat Speer
Insurance Experts' Forum, August 18, 2011

I came across a story, published earlier this year on insurance fraud, that should have been published on Halloween. It’s a bit dated, but worth further review and consideration.

Two women were nabbed earlier this year, according to a federal grand jury indictment, for defrauding insurance companies to the tune of almost $1 million.

According to the indictment, Faye Shilling, a phlebotomist, and Jean Crump, an employee at a now-defunct Long Beach mortuary, defrauded multiple insurance companies (who shall remain nameless) over a three-year period by cashing life insurance policies for phantom claimants, whom they maintain had died. As part of the scheme, Shilling and Crump allegedly prepared bogus death certificates, purchased burial plots and staged phony funerals to lend credibility to the scheme. When staging the funerals, the women allegedly filled caskets with mannequins and cow parts to make it appear as though they contained actual corpses, and cremated the remains when insurers began investigating.

That’s right—mannequins and cow parts. But that’s not what makes this story ghoulish. The plotting, scheming and painstaking efforts required to pull off a scheme like this is what makes it horrific. In my humble opinion, it’s really the net effect of entitlement—the belief by criminals that fraudulent behavior is justified because insurers have deep pockets. Or because they felt they were not treated fairly during their last claims experience. Or because their premiums went up. The list goes on.

Fraud accounts for 10 percent — or $30 billion — of the U.S. insurance industry’s incurred losses and loss adjustment expenses per year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

I’m sure the criminals don’t care one way or the other about that. But insurers should. I may be naïve, but I believe property and casualty insurers with a stake in the game could actually collaborate on a unified approach that combines education with technology and law enforcement resources to turn the tide on insurance fraudsters like Schilling and Crump.

Speaking of fraudsters, available legal records show that both women are now in prison, where they’ll have plenty of time to devise their next scheme.

Pat Speer is editor-in-cheif of Insurance Networking News.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Pat by using the “Add Your Comments” box below. Shealso can be reached at patricia.speer@sourcemedia.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

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