It’s been quite the year for insurance fraud so far, with the latest series of arrests making their way from the Bay Area clear down to San Diego.
In Concord, Lars Hedegaard (63) was pinched on two felony counts of grand theft. During his time from 2009 to 2010 as a licensed agent, under the business name Westport & Associates Insurance Services Inc., Hedegaard is alleged to have issued 14 fraudulent bonds to contractors and collected $111,365 in premiums — which he then used for personal expenses rather than forwarding to the company which had hired him to transact their bonds.
That company, Insurance Company of the West (IWC), first became suspicious when one of their insured had asked for a return on a premium with regard to a contracted construction job. IWC then notified Department of Insurance investigators after discovering that surety bonds had been issued for multiple construction contracts without their approval, and those insured were paying premiums which IWC never received.
The Department of Insurance is now in the process of suspending Hedegaard’s insurance license and encourages any other possible clients of Lars Hedegaard or Westport & Associates Insurance Services Inc. to contact the consumer hotline at 800-927-4357.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Department of Insurance detectives apprehended Clara Madrid (60) for insurance fraud and attempted perjury. Five days after she had resigned from her job as a housekeeper in May 2012, she’d filed a claim for a head injury she had apparently received on the job in November 2011.
She filed additional claims for an injury to her left hand and fingers, and a cumulative trauma injury from 2010 to 2012. A closer look at her records revealed she had filed and collected workers’ compensation claims for the same parts of her body on two previous occasions. However, she had denied during her deposition that she had filed any prior claims.
In San Diego, Jill Audette (28) was convicted on five felony counts of insurance fraud and abandoning the scene of an accident after she had falsely claimed her car had been stolen and involved in a hit-and-run.
Audette contacted the Progressive Casualty Insurance Company in September 2013 and reported her car stolen, a claim for which Progressive settled for $8,891 to cover damages to the vehicle. She then contacted San Diego Police to report the stolen car, but was informed that they’d received a report about the car being involved in a hit-and-run and that it had been impounded as evidence.
During the investigation, however, police uncovered possible evidence of fraud and referred the case to the Department of Insurance. Over the course of the investigation that followed, evidence suggested that Audette was apparently driving when she’d hit parked cars, fled the scene, and reported her car stolen. Audette was subsequently convicted on multiple felony counts of insurance fraud and leaving the scene of collision, for which she faces up to two years in jail.
The information provided in this story has been paraphrased from the official press release by the California Department of Insurance, to which all case specifics and information are to be attributed.
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