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Maryland woman repaid employer before fraud conviction

Documents showing an illegal money trail provide Maryland prosecutors with evidence to support allegations of non-violent financial crimes. Unusual transactions aren't always proof someone has committed fraud. Sometimes, the transactions or the prosecutors' interpretation of the way money is shifted is due to human error -- sometimes not.

A Hagerstown defendant recently pleaded guilty to insurance fraud. The state accused the 46-year-old insurance agent of pocketing premium payments from customers of a Hagerstown Nationwide Insurance agency. Investigators asserted the woman stole and manipulated payments from a minimum of 20 customers over six years, starting in June 2007.

Prosecutors alleged the woman, in at least one instance, failed to apply full premium payments to a customer's account. A portion of the funds apparently was deposited into the insurance agency's escrow account where the agent had access to the money. The woman reportedly withdrew funds from escrow for personal use.

Investigators said the insurance agent covered her tracks by using tactics somewhat like a Ponzi scheme. The defendant used some premium payments she received to make up for the missing portion of payments paid by other customers. The Maryland Attorney General's Office and Maryland Insurance Administration argued the defendant stole about $20,000 over the years.

The woman was charged with felony insurance fraud in excess of $300. The former Hagerstown insurance agent was sentenced to a six-year prison term and five years of probation. Prosecutors said the woman paid back some of the money she stole while still working for her employer and paid the rest after her firing in 2013.

In some instances, evidence of a white collar crime is irrefutable, but criminal charges brought by the state or federal government may be inappropriate. Criminal defense attorneys can dispute the way an investigation is conducted, evidence and charges. A defense lawyer may also negotiate for a reduced sentence on a defendant's behalf.

Source: Herald-Mail, "Hagerstown woman pleads guilty to insurance fraud," Don Aines, April. 09, 2015

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