The Massachusetts Appeals Court today affirmed the convictions of a Brighton insurance agent for fraudulently processing car insurance applications. The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Lima.
Following an investigation by the Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau, the defendant was indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury for two counts of motor vehicle insurance fraud and two counts of larceny by false pretenses. The defendant was a licensed insurance agent who worked for Brighton Insurance in Brighton. Brighton Insurance serves many clients who are Brazilian immigrants and have Brazilian driver’s licenses. At some point, insurance companies that worked with Brighton Insurance said they would no longer insure drivers with Brazilian licenses. The defendant advised some clients who could not obtain personal car insurance policies because they had only Brazilian licenses that they might be able to obtain commercial driver’s insurance.
The Commonwealth alleged that the defendant helped at least two individuals apply for fraudulent commercial insurance. In both cases, the defendant’s clients applied for commercial insurance policies for businesses that used their home addresses as the business addresses. Other than the names of the businesses, there was no information about the clients’ relationships to the businesses. The defendant falsely represented that she was the only driver of the “company” vehicles in both applications. However, there was no evidence that the defendant worked for any business other than Brighton Insurance. Following her convictions, the defendant appealed and argued: (1) the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law; and (2) she could not have been convicted of larceny because she did not steal any property.
The Appeals Court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the defendant’s convictions. After evaluating the trial evidence, the Court ruled that the prosecutor had proven that the defendant made materially false statements on the commercial insurance applications. Further, the defendant knew the statements were false and the statements were intended to deceive the insurance companies into issuing commercial insurance policies when the defendant’s clients were ineligible to obtain personal insurance policies.
The Appeals Court also rejected the defendant’s argument that she could not be convicted of larceny by false pretenses because she had not stolen any property. The relevant statute states that larceny by false pretenses occurs whenever a defendant steals, or with intent to defraud obtains the property of another by false pretense. The definition of property includes any “valuable contract in force.” The Court held that an insurance policy is a valuable contract in force, and therefore the defendant’s conduct in fraudulently attempting to obtain the policies satisfied the elements of the statute.
The Insurance Fraud Bureau is a very good investigative agency. People who are being investigated for insurance fraud typically cooperate with the Fraud Bureau, often to their detriment, because they do not realized that they are under investigation for criminal activity. Spring & Spring has represented many clients who have been investigated by the Fraud Bureau, and the investigations are often more thorough and complete than police investigations. If you are contacted by a member of the Insurance Fraud Bureau, you should not consent to an interview until you have consulted with a criminal defense attorney.