Cold callers try to steal medical, financial IDs, threaten to cut off Medicare benefits

Seniors, watch out. A move to prevent your identity from getting stolen actually is breeding those schemes.

Nearly 60 million seniors will receive new Medicare cards without Social Security numbers over the next year. Seniors are getting red, white and blue paper cards with a mix of 11 numbers and digits instead.

HHS is mailing the cards to keep SSNs from the grubby hands of thieves, who use the numbers to filch seniors’ medical and financial identities.

The biggest fear is that swindlers will try and trick seniors into giving up their SSNs or other info during the one-year phase-in period. Medicare ID scams are hardly new, though the momentous shift could breed all manner of chicanery.

Cheaters are cold-calling seniors, lying they’re from Medicare. The seniors are due for a refund on their old Medicare cards, and need to provide their bank info to process the refund, the crooks say.

Or there’s a fee for the new cards, so just hand over your banking or credit-card info and we’ll gladly take your payment over the phone.

Some callers threaten — you’ll lose your Medicare benefits unless you pay up now.

Other times the claimed Medicare rep wants to “verify” the senior’s SSN.

Text and email pitches are reaching seniors as well.

Medicare won’t contact you by phone, text or email about the new cards. The cards also are free, and nor do seniors have to report or verify info.

Yet three of four seniors know little or nothing about the new cards, an AARP survey says. Six of 10 seniors think they must pay a fee. Half might not question a call from a claimed Medicare rep.

Scammers have cold-called seniors for months during the run-up to the switch. Sleazy pitches are picking up speed with the new cards being mailed.

Staying safe is easy:

• Just hang up;

• Sign up for an alert that your new card was mailed; and

• Destroy your old plastic Medicare card when your new one arrives.

The new Medicare cards are here to protect your identity. With common-sense precautions, you can let the cards do their work well.

About the author: Jim Quiggle is director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud

Leg amputated after claiming ambushed while helping stranded motorist

Shannon Egeland stopped to help a pregnant woman stranded on a roadside late one summer night near Caldwell, Idaho. It was an ambush. 

Someone snuck up behind, bopped him in the head and shotgunned him. The blast tore into Egeland’s legs. He had large blood loss and shattered bones, forcing surgeons to amputate his left leg.

Or so the former Idaho developer told his disability insurer.

Egeland had his teenage son Ryland blast him in his legs with a 20-gauge shotgun, then left him lying by the roadside in a bizarre insurance scam. Egeland dialed 911 after his son sped off.

He invented the ambush to make a false disability claim to boost his finances. But the Samaritan Scam fizzled. Fraud investigators soon saw through the ruse. 

The attack had no logic or motive — why did robbers leave his wallet, cellphone and fancy BMW behind?

Egeland also bought the death-and-dismemberment disability policy just a week before the shooting. Suspicious timing.

He also lied on the insurance application. 

Egeland had no arrests in the last 10 years, he told Standard Insurance Company. He actually faced federal sentencing for a $20-million mortgage-fraud scheme in Oregon.

Egeland finally admitted all. On top of the insurance con, Egeland hoped the setup shooting would delay his sentencing for the mortgage plot. He finally was handed 10 years. Egeland later received nearly four years for the insurance shooting in March 2018.

“What bothers me the most is my son — the pain is on him,” Egeland said. “If I could take it all back, I would, but I can’t. That will haunt me the rest of my life.”

Fraud fighters have a duty to use reliable data

Like or loathe, the term “fake news” is now part of our national culture. Even the venerable Webster’s Merriam Dictionary now includes “fake news.”

Fakes, frauds and scams are well-known to the fraud-fighting community. Yet how often do we consider the source of information or data we rely upon in our investigation or advocacy efforts?

As a child I remember my father somewhat cynically stating the adage: “Figures don’t lie, but liars make figures.” We often use data and reports to support our positions and advance our goals. As an attorney, I was taught to cite the law and information if you want to prevail. It remains good advice.

But fraud fighters especially owe a special duty to the public to be cautious about what reports and statistics we cite, and even define what constitutes insurance fraud.

A good case in point recently was discussed among insurance policymakers. The battle has raged for many years over whether insurers have the “right” to use aftermarket versus original (OEM) parts in making vehicle repairs.

Proponents argue that aftermarket parts are at least of equal quality, while critics say insurers use shoddy knockoffs to avoid paying for higher-priced OEM parts. The usually impartial Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently was embroiled in a battle about the safety of aftermarket parts.

A Dallas law firm is handling a case involving injuries allegedly caused by using aftermarket parts. The firm ran crash tests supposedly showing increased risk of injuries to passengers in vehicles repaired with aftermarket parts. The findings ran counter to tests by others, and referenced by IIHS, which issued a news advisory questioning the validity of the law firm’s findings.

This is one example of how statistics can support far-differing positions on issues affecting insurance overall, and fraud specifically. Leaders such as the Coalition spoke to legislators, often citing studies and data, at the recent NCOIL spring meeting in Atlanta.

One debate showed how “reliable” data can support far-differing views. Of growing national importance are Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). The “Big 3” PBMs control 78 percent of the prescription drug market, with more than 180 million enrollees. One PBM just made national news by announcing Cigna’s plan to spend $54 billion to take over Express Scripts. Combined, they had revenue of about $142 billion as of last year.

Even before this mega-merger was announced, NCOIL speakers cited statistics, data and pricing analysis to favor and demonize PBMs and their impact on America’s health and prescription drug insurance markets. Statistics were cited to praise and ridicule. Certainly, both sides couldn’t have talked about the same data and “facts” … yet they did. The Coalition was asked if we view PBMs as “insurance fraud.”  We’re monitoring the issue, though are carefully researching before taking a stance, if even at all. Why?

First, is the data itself. Today there’s plenty of data on almost any issue. As we consider what constitutes insurance fraud, we seek accurate and verifiable data. Our credibility rests on having good data on which to base a reliable and informed decision. Often that takes time, and willingness to weigh many viewpoints. Having important groups such as NCOIL, NAIC and NCSL as vital parts of the Coalition gives our members an “ear” and “voice” to address these fraud issues on the national stage.

Second, there is a major difference between insurance fraud and abuse. Some practices are disdainful, yet legal, abuses of America’s insurance systems. With hundreds of billions at stake every year, fraud and abuse run rampant. The Coalition uses our 25-year history as a barometer to help decide what to target as fraud versus abuse.

To prove the point, the Coalition recently filed strongly worded comments voicing concern about the Administration’s proposal to authorize  Association Health Plans potentially under sole federal control. The Coalition educated federal decisionmakers using our first-hand experience of seeing tens of thousands of consumers defrauded by fake health plans when AHPs ran amuck in 2002-2004. Citing this sorry history, we urged policymakers to allow all-important state oversight of AHPs in conjunction with federal involvement.

Whether the debate is over AHPs, PBMs, OEMs or another string of acronyms, data can support potentially all sides of a debate. We talk about the importance of SIUs deciding whether a claim is fraudulent only when the investigation is complete, with all the facts. We caution younger adjusters to be thorough to avoid allegations of bad faith.

It’s always wise to be certain that data we rely upon is tested and derived from reliable sources. Or does it represent only the views of a special interest group with an agenda? And, is the issue about insurance fraud, or abuse of our insurance system? America’s insurance consumers rely upon carefully weighed opinions and actions by the Coalition, our members and allies as we protect the public from insurance fraud. To that viewpoint, certainly, the Coalition is committed.

About the author: Matthew J. Smith serves as general counsel and director of government affairs for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

Satisfied claimants good for business – and can help fight fraud

Property/casualty insurers should feel pretty good about themselves after seeing glowing numbers in the latest customer satisfaction report. In fact, J.D. Powers says claimant satisfaction is at an all-time high — and this comes after a couple of years of heavy homeowner disaster claims.

High customer satisfaction is good for business. It promotes goodwill and creates loyalty. Customer satisfaction helps reduce the consumer complaints received by insurance departments, lessening the burden on regulators.

Satisfied customers also can help to reduce the perceived need for claimants to run out and hire an attorney at the first sign of a loss.

And there’s one more reason insurers should continue to work hard to keep customers satisfied: It can help reduce fraud.

When consumers feel they’re treated fairly, they’re less likely to be tolerant of fraud. Research by the Coalition strongly suggests a correlation between satisfied claimants and their attitudes about fraud. After a loss and a good claim experience, policyholders are more likely to look down on friends, family members and co-workers who are considering a scam.

Exerting such peer pressure can be the strongest deterrent to fraud, according to researchers.

Insurers have plenty of reasons to continue to keep claimants satisfied. Let’s hope it’s a trend that will lead to even higher levels of satisfaction in the future, and lower levels of fraud.

About the author: Dennis Jay is executive director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

Specialist also sticks Medicare with $137M in bogus eye claims

Patients flocked to Dr. Salomon Melgen, looking for relief of serious eye conditions. The West Palm Beach, Fla. eye specialist returned their trust by thrusting needles painfully in their eyes and searing their retinas with lasers. It was a festival of worthless and botched procedures that left patients with damaged eyes.

For Melgen, the payoff was a $136-million filching of Medicare and taxpayers. He became a rich man replete with a luxury mansion until investigators, well, saw through his shortsighted eye ruses.

The Harvard-trained specialist was well-known and sought-after, especially for seniors with eye problems. Their misery became his path to insurance wealth.

Melgen treated up to 100 patients a day. He falsely diagnosed most with debilitating diseases, even when most had no disease. Macular degeneration was his most-common bogus diagnosis. It’s a retina disease that can permanently sap the vision of seniors 65 and older. The prospect of an incurable descent into blindness made patients take whatever treatment the expert in the white coat said they needed.

Painful eye injections

That often meant painfully injecting expensive medicines into their eyes, then billing Medicare. Melgen often had his staff fill out medical charts and diagnoses before he even saw patients. Medicare paid him for 37,075 injections in 2012 alone — more than 100 per day. Tests often were done in just seconds, making them worthless for diagnosing. Melgen’s average insurance haul was more than $23,000 per patient.

Some seniors had a plastic prosthetic eye, yet Melgen billed Medicare for testing and treating serious eye conditions. Other patients had eye conditions that were too far gone to benefit from treatments. Melgen still soaked Medicare with batteries of tests and treatments.

Anna Borgia had painful injections and laser treatments for supposed glaucoma and diabetes-related sight loss. Melgen then botched a surgery that left her nearly blind, she testified. She says she’s confined to her home, listening to the TV and paying drivers to take her to the grocery store.

Developed eye infections

Melgen convinced a 90-year-old woman to have laser treatments and injections. She later said she didn’t need the treatments — she had no eye disease. Patients developed eye infections from injections. Fully one of every 13 patients grew infected. That was “astronomically high,” an expert testified at his trial. Normally only about one in 3,300 patients are infected, experts said.

Randy Frick’s attorney read a letter saying Melgen convinced his 90-year-old mother to get laser treatments and injections. He later learned they were unneeded because his mother has no eye disease.

“She underwent systemic torture at the hands of Melgen,” wrote Frick, who drove his mother to the appointments. “I feel so guilty I have nightmares.”

Melgen played another billing trick on Medicare — give patients partial doses of medicines, bill Medicare for a full dose, then bill again for using the remaining meds in the vile. That turned a $2,000 vial into a $6,000- $8,000 insurance windfall.
Melgen was handed 17 years in federal prison in February 2018.

“I love dancing but what man wants to take a blind woman dancing?” Anna Borgia told the judge.

Surprise, uninsured medical bills drain patient bank accounts

A reporter strikes a nerve with a story that prompted hundreds of news outlets to re-post his saga of a Texas patient’s run-in with a large, uninsured bill for urine testing.

The phone rang. A reporter wanted to interview the Coalition about a problem that’s been vexing medical patients with growing frequency: surprise jack-in-the-box bills for urine drug testing that patients assume their health policy covers.

The investigative story by the respected Kaiser Health News posted a couple of weeks later. A fine reporting job that featured Elizabeth Moreno. The Texas woman was handed a whopping $17,850 lab bill for a routine urine drug test her health insurer refused to pay because the lab was out of her health plan’s network.

In the story, experts described the lab’s bill as “real fishy,” “outrageous” and a “misplaced decimal point.”

The story took off. CNN posted it. So did the Washington Post, NPR and Money Magazine. Soon an avalanche of news outlets re-posted it — more than 420 at last count.

Longtime reporter Fred Schulte had struck a journalistic and human nerve.

Stunned patients with growing frequency are stuck with ruinously large bills when they’re shuttled to medical providers outside their own health- insurance networks.

Their health policy thus won’t pay up, so the patients have to drain their bank accounts or face collections, suits and wrecked credit ratings.

Surprise out-of-network bills are bedeviling patients around the U.S. Moreno’s lab bill is just one signpost of a larger billing problem that can invade almost any medical procedure.

The bills often straddle a fine line from large to abusively large to criminally inflated.

News outlets everywhere wanted to report on a spreading abuse that could land hard on any of their readers’ doorsteps — and bank accounts. Fred Schulte gave them another chance to alert readers.

The Kaiser story isn’t the first, and likely many more news outlets will pull the lid off unexpected and onerous medical charges until reforms lay this problem to rest.

A bill in Congress would prevent surprise bills for patients treated in a hospital.

As for consumer action:

  • Check with your insurer, doctor and hospital before getting treatment if possible. Ask for projected range of costs for planned medical procedures;
  • Ask what provider and work your health plan will cover, and what’s out of network. Anesthesiologists, radiologists and pathologists are common examples of out-of-network providers who may be called into your case without your knowing.; and
  • Afterward, get an itemized bill. Read it carefully, and check for procedures you didn’t receive. Your insurer also may help if you see surprise bills, so contact your insurer before writing any checks. Also see if the hospital has a patient advocate who can help.

There’s no bullet-proof answer, especially if you need fast emergency treatment. Still, any preventive steps might save thousands.

And as for Elizabeth Moreno, her father settled the lab’s bill for $5,000, which he now regrets.

About the author: Jim Quiggle is director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud

The march of Millennials: More likely to scam insurers?

Younger consumers are more-likely to tolerate padding claims. Will America’s largest generation grow more honest as they age?

The insurance world is captivated by the rising use of Big Data and artificial intelligence. A technological revolution is upon us, from underwriting to claims to fraud investigations.

In our rush to understand and use these breakthroughs to discover and combat insurance scams, we also must ask how much are we forgetting about the human element that motivates insurance fraud?

Many think the Baby Boomer generation was our nation’s largest population change. That’s correct, as a population surge. Yet in raw numbers, the 75.4 million Millennials have surpassed the 74.9 million Boomers as the nation’s largest generation. As Boomers age and die off, Millennials as a percent of the U.S. population will continue rising in the coming decades.

How does this emerging generation view insurance fraud? The answers may surprise you! An older, though still often-cited, Accenture study of people’s attitudes toward insurance fraud gives some telling insights.

Consumers were asked how acceptable they found it to make claims for phantom lost or damaged goods, or for phantom injury treatment.

Older Boomers almost unanimously (97 percent) found this blatant fraud unacceptable. Fewer consumers found the scams unacceptable among younger age groups until we reached consumers aged 18-24 years of age. Fully 16 percent found those false claims to be completely acceptable! Given the size of the Millennial generation, that suggests 12 million future U.S. insurance fraudsters. Other fraud questions revealed a similar acceptance of insurance fraud by America’s youth.

Will Millennials grow less tolerant of fraud as they age? That’s certainly the question. Current trends don’t seem to point in that direction. A more-recent study found:

Younger respondents, especially young men, were much more likely to view claim padding as acceptable. For example, among males age 18-34, 23 percent agree it is all right to increase claim amounts to make up for premiums, compared with just 5 percent of their older male counterparts and just 8 percent of females aged 18-34.”

The idea that nearly a quarter of Millennial-age males are perfectly fine with inflating a claim should cause concern.

Why should we care? Startups and traditional insurers are looking at “peer-to-peer” models. These app-based insurers often rely on speed more than thorough review of underwriting and claims handling.

One such insurer boasts it paid a claim in a world-record 3 seconds. These new insurers often claim they’ll rely on the “inherent honesty” and “moral attitudes” of Millennials to be honest with insurance dealings — especially if the insurer donates a percent of profits to charity.

More-seasoned fraud investigators may counter: “True, unless the fraudsters view themselves as the more-deserving charity!” 

But perhaps most important, we need newer consumer-attitude studies to best grasp Millennial attitudes about fraud. A study by the Coalition will be released later this year. It will provide much of that needed guidance.

Millennials are the future policyholders in America. They’ll form the largest block of insurance buyers in our nation’s history. While Big Data and AI are important to fighting insurance scams, let’s remember that it’s we humans — based on our morals and values — who decide whether to commit insurance fraud.

About the author: Matthew J. Smith serves as general counsel and director of government affairs for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

Fraud of the Month: Pro athletes enmeshed in scams as victims, perpetrators

Marcus Buckley had a decent NFL career as a linebacker who made his living from helmet-jarring collisions with running backs. His seven-year stint came mostly with the New York Giants.

Yet perhaps Buckley’s biggest and baddest opponent double-teamed him the hardest — federal prosecutors. The Texas man inflated workers-compensation claims for lingering injuries that dogged him for years after he retired following the 2000 season. Buckley’s now benched, spending two years in federal prison.

Insurance fraud is hardly a contact sport, yet pro athletes can be enmeshed in scams — unwisely as perpetrators, sometimes regretfully as victims. They’re the tiny minority of pro athletes, though their high public profile attracts unusually high attention to their fraud crimes.

Claimed built-up stress injuries

As for Buckley … he sought money from the Giants’ workers-compensation insurer for built-up stress injuries — including memory loss — from all the seasons of head-knocking. He settled for $300,000 in 2010, and the case seemed closed.

Not quite. Buckley dipped back into the well, demanding more insurance money. He handed the insurer nearly $1.6 million of forged medical invoices and statements from medical providers for treatment he never received. Buckley also created false collection notices from credit-collection agencies that supposedly were chasing past-due medical bills.

Buckley had a crooked Sacramento adjuster on the take; she issued him the insurance checks. The feds issued Buckley two years in prison in January 2018, and ordered him to repay the stolen insurance money.

Paid kickbacks in $20-million con

Monty Grow played linebacker briefly for the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars. His post-NFL career was far more lucrative, until the feds tackled him for a loss.

Grow made millions by paying illegal kickbacks to associates who recruited hundreds of patients to a Pompano Beach pharmacy. That outfit allegedly bilked the federal military health insurer out of $20 million by charging for expensive compound creams that patients typically didn’t need.

Grow was convicted of fraud and kickbacks. He could spend up to 20 years in federal prison when convicted. Former NFL journeyman quarterback Shane Matthews received three months in federal prison for a smaller role as one of Grow’s associates.

Altered date of uninsured collision

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Ted Lilly made a phony damage claim for his RV.

The Edna Valley, Calif. man pitched for six Major League teams over 15 years. Lilly finished up with the Los Angeles Dodgers after signing a 3-year, $33 million contract in 2010.

Lilly damaged his uninsured RV in a collision and obtained a $4,600 repair estimate from a body shop. He bought a policy from Progressive Insurance five days later, then lied that the wreck happened after he bought the insurance. Lilly pleaded no contest and lucked out with two years of probation plus 200 hours of community service.

Falsely claimed jeweled ring stolen

Brent Dwayne Griffith had a brief NFL career as an offensive lineman with the Buffalo Bills. His post-football antics proved offensive as well.

The Benson, Minn. man earned a jewel-encrusted ring when the Bills won the divisional title in 1990. Years later, Griffith claimed someone stole the ring from his home. His homeowner policy covered the seeming theft, paying him $4,780 in 2013.

Griffith and his wife then split up. None too pleased, she told the insurer that Griffith still had the ring. He also cashed the insurance check, which was made out to them both, without telling her. The Minnesota state fraud bureau took over, and helped convict Benson. He earned a lifetime criminal record, plus a tiny two days in county jail, and a hefty fine.

Trusting athletes defrauded

Sometimes insurance thievery happens in reverse — athletes are soaked by people they allow into their inner circle.

The nanny of a star left winger for the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins looted his family jewelry then filed loss claims for the stuff after setting her home on fire. Andrea Forsythe stole $12,000 diamond earrings that Chris Kunitz gave to his wife Maureen for a wedding anniversary.

Forsythe had the jewelry appraised, then made the insurance claims after her arson fire. She also double-dipped, selling a loose diamond from one earring to a jewelry store. Forsythe was handed five years in federal prison for these and other thefts.

Insurance agent Keven D. Webster took premiums from NFL and NBA players, promising to buy them umbrella policies worth $1 million-$5 million. Except the Pensacola, Fla. agent pocketed their money and never bought the promised insurance. A federal judge promised Webster 21 months in prison, and ordered him to repay $144,229.

Lilly, at least, says he plans to go straight. “My actions do not reflect the way I choose to live,” he told the court after being sentenced. “I am very much determined to earn back a reputation of trust and transparency.”

Reward shareholders? Cut premiums? Here’s another idea

Trump’s corporate tax cut should leave businesses in America — including insurers — with a little extra cash in their pockets. Some companies are buying back stock, and others are handing out bonuses to their workers.

Consumer advocates are calling on state regulators to force insurers to cut rates so their insureds can benefit from the windfall as well. As an insurance consumer, I love the idea of paying less for my insurance.

But here’s another idea for insurers: Take some of that money and invest it in anti-fraud efforts. In the end, it likely will result in even greater savings for consumers.

Insurers and insurance associations have long touted that anti-fraud investments have ROIs of as much as eight to one. That’s $8 in savings for every dollar invested. So why not hire more investigators, buy upgraded anti-fraud technology or start a fraud deterrence program.

For every insurer that has a well-funded, state-of-the-art anti-fraud program, there’s another insurer that lacks the staffing, training and tools to fully detect and investigate fraud. More and more organized rings are targeting these insurers — word leaks out within the criminal underworld. Use that tax cut cash to earn a tough reputation on the streets.

Another idea: Many state fraud bureaus are woefully underfunded. Let’s increase annual insurer fraud assessments so our partners in government have the tools they need to be more-effective fraud fighters.

I’m not advocating throwing money at anti-fraud programs for the sake of just increasing budgets. But managed well, these wise investments can reward insurers and their customers many times over.

About the author: Dennis Jay is executive director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

Ditzy gang wrecks planes, Lamborghini, luxury boat in doomed insurance plot

Smoke filled the Beechcraft Baron airplane 30 miles off the Louisiana coast … going down fast. Pilot Theodore R. Wright III radioed for help when flames spat out from behind the instrument panel, melting the windshield. He bellied the plane into the ocean — a cool-headed, life-saving maneuver. Or so Wright claimed.

Ditching the Beechcraft actually was a ditzy insurance hoax — Wright crash- landed and sank it on purpose. The deep-six dunking jumpstarted a doomed plot to wreck the Beechcraft … another plane … a Lamborghini … and 45-foot sailboat — all for nearly $940,000 of inflated insurance claims.

It was a perfect — and perfectly doomed — trifecta of insurance scams by land, sea and air.

Wright’s gang bought the luckless machines at super-low prices, then deceptively over-insured and destroyed them for inflated insurance claims. He also threw in a bogus $100,000 lawsuit to sweeten the payday.

First came his Beechcraft. The craft sank after landing. Wright and his passenger Raymond Fosdick free-floated in yellow life vests for three hours, seeming marvels of cool-headed calm in 3,000 feet of dangerous Gulf Coast water. Wright even recorded the life-and-death ordeal on his iPad while they floated helplessly in the choppy waters. A Coast Guard helicopter scooped them up just before nightfall.

Wright had bought the plane for just $46,000, yet insured it for nearly twice that.

Wright made himself a media sensation. His seeming survival against all odds earned Wright interviews on The Today Show and other national news outlets. The iPad footage and TV interviews were great theater — all to make the crash seem so real that the insurer would pay out.

Wright and Fosdick milked the scam for another $100,000 with a bogus lawsuit. Fosdick falsely sued him for supposed injuries from the crash. They secretly set up the lawsuit, then divided the settlement money.

Next on the hit list … the Lamborghini Gallardo. Wright bought the salvaged machine for $76,000, then drove it into a ditch full of water. The Lamborghini flooded and was ruined. Bad accident, Wright lied to his insurer. He received a nicely profitable $169,554 of insurance money.

A Cessna 500 aircraft took the next fall. Wright had Fosdick burn the plane to a metallic crisp in Texas. It was a total loss, earning a nifty $440,000 of insurance money — more than double their purchase price.

Last came the ill-fated luxury sailboat intended for lengthy deep-water sailing. Wright bought the Hunter Passage for $50,150, yet insured it for $195,000. He had a crony damage and partially sink the boat at its marina dock in Ko Olina, Hawaii. Wright even pretended he was the owner when phoning the insurance company to make the claim. The payout was a $180,023 windfall that more than tripled what they paid for the boat.

Wright’s showboating took him down. He made too many people pay too much attention — including investigators and law enforcement. Clues piled up. Not the least of which was a course Wright took to learn how to crash-land planes in water just a week before deep-sixing his Beechcraft.

Wright and his gang were convicted. When he’s sentenced, he’ll have up to 20 years in federal prison to rethink how his daffy insurance cons flew too high, went too far, and fell too fast.