Minors set-up in crashes, murders & health scams for insurance payday

“I believe the children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way,” the late Whitney Houston sang in the iconic R&B hit Greatest Love of All.

Those words generally resonate with anyone who has or knows a young son, daughter, brother, sister, niece or nephew. Or just simply knows an awesome and impressionable child.

Who would want to hurt an infant or toddler?

Or make the battle of puberty more challenging for juveniles and adolescents?

Or even ruin a child’s life, right?

Greedy insurance scammers do. More cases of children being exploited for insurance scams are making the news rounds lately.

Here are just some of the latest abuses:

Joaquin Rams no longer wanted his child. He had been having financial problems and planned on moving out of his home. The Manassas, Va. dad took out $524,000 of life-insurance policies on his 15-month-old infant son Prince. Hard-up for money, Rams either suffocated or drowned the toddler though the cause of death could not be determined. Rams received life in prison for his terrible parenting skills and murder.

Troy Leonard sexually abused eight child patients. The Newton, N.J. special-ed consultant sexually assaulted the children under age 13 multiple times, then billed insurers for bogus treatment services he never provided the children. Nor was he even licensed to provide the counseling he advertised. Leonard received 10 years in prison and lost his license.

Dayton home-health provider Mollie Parsons was supposed to take care of 14-year-old Makayla Norman. The bedridden child had severe cerebral palsy and couldn’t move or talk. Parsons let Norman starve to death while billing Medicaid for no-show home care — sometimes on days she was on shopping sprees. Makayla was a skeleton, infested with lice and with a soiled diaper. Parsons received only 10 years in state prison and will serve up to five years in federal prison afterwards.

“Mother” Ana Ovando cared less about her children and more about her loyalty to a staged crash gang. The South Florida mom abused her children. She then packed them into cars as part of 3 staged crash wrecks so she could make false whiplash claims. The children even begged their mom to stop the crash cons. Although the children survived unharmed, Ovando asked them to lie for her in court about the crashes when caught. The kids’ rehearsed pleas and tears to let their mother go didn’t work: Ovando received 6.5 years in jail.

These are just a few of the awful insurance plots that victimized children.

You’d think there would be stronger procedures, laws or regulations preventing abuses of kids for insurance. While some exist, fraudsters always find loopholes … or better yet, a child to fill that loophole.

Regardless, children are the true victims. The physical and emotional scars from being used as collateral damage for insurance grabs can inflict years of psychological damage on the young.

Greater legal and consumers protections are needed to safeguard children from becoming victims and pawns of insurance greed. Insurers, legislators, fraud fighters and consumer advocates should consider the following:

  • More states should limit the age of kids for whom parents can take out life insurance. Few states have such limits. A recent Washington Post oped citing Dennis Jay highlights other needed reforms. Insurers should be alert to fraud when a parent buys a life policy on a child;
  • Consumer education will help alert parents of red flags for inflated, invasive and worthless treatment by shady dentists and docs; and
  • Laws and regulations should be enacted to prevent children from being exploited for insurance money. Maybe make exploiting a child for insurance fraud a specific crime, or a specific crime of child abuse;

“Show them all the beauty they possess inside,” Whitney continued to sing in The Greatest Love of All. “Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.”

Whitney is right. Every child deserves a chance to live and explore life and the beauty within themselves. Free of abuse and harm.

About the author: Elijah Mercer is research associate of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.


Doctor fakes death in Russia to avoid U.S. health charges

Just a small favor, Dr. Tigran Svadjian begged the feds. He was cornered for allegedly stealing nearly $2.5 million from California’s state-run health insurer. He was mixed up with a suspected Armenian mob-related medical fraud ring.

The Newport Beach physician told prosecutors he’d plead guilty, and agreed to go undercover by wearing a wire in conversations with suspected ring cohorts.

He just needed time to visit his ailing mother in Russia. Sure, why not, the feds agreed. So Svadjian hopped a flight to Moscow. The feds soon received a death certificate from Russia. Svadjian suddenly died of pneumonia on a Moscow street. Case over, end of a convincing health-fraud prosecution, it seemed.

In fact, Svadjian faked his death to avoid being hauled into the courtroom. He went on the run for 10 years — even starting a new family — before being snagged in the Ukraine for using a fake passport.

Mixed up with mob figures

Let’s start at the beginning. … The Armenian immigrant got mixed up with medical providers that had suspected ties to the Armenian and Russian mob in California. The state was probing their operation allegedly for falsely billing Medi-Cal $13 million for medical tests and procedures.

Svadjian denied wrongdoing, yet provided only a handful of the 200 medical records the state requested. Nor could he account for 94 percent of his claimed medical treatments, officials say. Some patients he claimed to treat were dead. The feds soon investigated before allowing his fateful escape.

Once in Moscow, Svadjian bribed a Russian police officer $200 to get a fake death certificate from a Moscow morgue. More bribery earned him a new identity and passport as Vasily Petrosov.

His grieving wife Emilya, meanwhile, received what she believed were Svadjian’s ashes and death certificate. He left her to battle creditors trying to liquidate assets to pay off his debts.

Had child with Russian

Svadjian set himself up as a scuba instructor in an Egyptian resort town on the Black Sea coast. He fell for a Russian woman, and they had a child. Another child was on the way.

She flew back to Russia for a Caesarian childbirth. Svadjian wanted to join her. He forged yet another passport as Viktoras Cajevkis, a Lithuanian. Authorities in the Ukraine spotted the fake document and shipped him back to Egypt. Suspicious, Egyptian investigators dug into his records and discovered his real identity. Svadjian was packed off to the U.S. for prosecution.

He was inches from a fraud guilty plea before pulling that harrowing escape from the judge’s gavel back in 2002.

Svadjian made a second escape back in California after his re-arrest. Prosecutors thought he’d died, and they discarded the fraud evidence they’d carefully built up. So the federal judge instead handed Svadjian just 2 1/2 years in federal prison in March 2017 — for fleeing justice.

“Did the defendant get away with his (health-fraud) scheme? Yes, Mr. Svadjian, to a degree you were successful,” Judge Michael Fitzgerald said in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. “You deserve 60 months.”

Why was baby insured for $500,000 of life insurance?

A father’s greed for $500,000 of life insurance ended the short life of smiling toddler Prince McLeod Rams.

His father Joaquin drowned the doe-eyed Washington, D.C.-area tyke, who was just 15 months old.

How could Joaquin get away with buying a fortune worth of life insurance on an infant?

Life insurance can keep a family running if a spouse dies of cancer, or a business afloat if a key partner has a heart attack. These are valid reasons for insuring someone’s life. It’s called an insurable interest. It’s a standard requirement that helps keep life policies from becoming murder weapons.

Yet Rams hoodwinked the life-insurance system.

In applying for coverage, Rams lied that the boy’s estranged mother was dead in order to avoid telling her about his plans to insure Prince’s life.

Simply trying to insure a newborn also should’ve raised red flags when Joaquin sought the coverage. His shaky finances gave him yet a deeper murder motive.

Rams was blowing through money. He even planned to move out of his Northern Virginia home to rent it out and make his mortgage payments.

His suspicious behavior finally did him in. Rams told his Realtor right after Prince died that he was moving back home. He said he was buying new appliances and re-painting his home, even though his finances were on quicksand at the time. Detailed forensics also revealed Prince was drowned.

Did any insurer check whether Prince’s mother was alive? Did they check Rams’ finances? Did the mere fact of a young father insuring a newborn’s life trigger enough alarm bells for a deeper look at his motives?

We need a high standard of scrutiny for insuring the precious lives of toddlers and other youths. That responsibility extends from life insurers to insurance agents to state laws that permit such sales.

Little Prince never had a childhood. But his death can help other kids live their childhoods. We must tighten a life-insurance system that sadly allowed Prince to perish all too young.

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