You always hear about the guy who claims he slipped and fell at the grocery store and collected a huge settlement as a result. But insurance fraud is actually harder to pull off than you think. In order for these scams to work, you have to successfully trick countless investigators, police detectives, doctors and sometimes your friends and family.
Which is another way of saying you have to be fairly smart. Which is another way of saying that most people fail hilariously.
#6. Clayton Daniels Fakes His Death in the Stupidest Way Possible
Clayton Wayne Daniels was charged with two counts of sexual assault of a minor in 1997. His wife, Molly, instead of packing her things and buying a bus ticket to her mother's house, hatched an elaborate and horrible plan to fake Clayton's death and keep him out of jail. Oh, and it was stupid. It was a stupid plan.
American Statesman via The Veiled Sibyl
"And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for basic common sense."
After taking out a $110,000 life insurance policy on Clayton, thereby clearing the road of any undue suspicion, the first step was to procure a body that they could pretend was Clayton's. So, the couple visited a graveyard in the dark of night and dug up the corpse of a Ms. Charlotte Davis, an elderly woman who had been dead for over a year.
"She was my 10th grade math teacher, and fuck her, that's why."
They then dressed the corpse in Clayton's clothing (which included, not surprisingly, a baseball cap with a fishhook attached), put the body behind the wheel of a Chevy and pushed the car over a cliff. When the impact failed to produce a spectacular explosion like they'd seen in action movies, they climbed down with some lighter fluid and set Ms. Davis on fire (by our count, at this point Ms. Davis had been killed at least three times).
Now it was time for the real Clayton to disappear. But instead of laying low for a few years in some backwater Alabama town, Clayton simply dyed his hair and grew a mustache, then returned home and started introducing himself to his neighbors and 4-year-old son as Molly's new boyfriend, "Jake."
Molly had apparently conducted considerable research into the plot, searching online into the specifics of how to burn a body and produce false documents, but she had neglected certain important aspects. First, police noticed that at the scene of the "accident" there were no skid marks or anything to suggest the car had lost control. Arson investigators discovered the hottest point of the fire was the driver's seat, and that it had been set with lighter fluid. Oh, and Molly's browser history recorded all of the sites she visited when researching How to Fake My Husband's Death.
Case closed, right? Well, a certain forensic investigator nearly botched the entire investigation. Medical examiner Vladimir Parungao at first identified the charred remains as belonging to Clayton Daniels, claiming in his report that he had discovered "a small segment of penis" and traces of urine (in the year-dead flaming corpse of an old lady). Parungao was taken to task by Burnett County officials for suspicions of laziness, doubting he had performed an examination at all. We're hoping that's what happened, considering the "segment of penis and traces of urine" thing. Otherwise Molly and Clayton went to some extraordinary lengths to create the perfect fake accident scene.
"We just need a small segment. Try to pee in her first."
#5. Judge Michael Joyce Spends His Settlement Money Like a Rap Star
Judge Michael Joyce had lived an admirable life by any account, a fact reflected by the lofty position he held on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. A bronze star recipient in Vietnam, he returned from the war to graduate from Penn State in 1973, then from Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1977. He was a White House clerk during the Ford administration and successfully ran his own practice before being elected a county judge and eventually securing his final position on the superior court. After finally reaching nearly the pinnacle of the legal profession, however, Judge Joyce's mind shit in its proverbial brain pants.
"You know what? I don't really care for justice."
Joyce seemed to display a knack for living well beyond his means, and former coworkers reported that he was basically living out of his judge's quarters after a breakup with his girlfriend and on the verge of being kicked out of his residence for defaulting on his rent. When the judge found himself involved in the most minor of fender benders (at speeds reported to be no more than 3 to 5 mph), a light went off in his head. He claimed to have been completely disabled by the vehicle accident, citing brain trauma and constant back, neck and arm pain that left him unable to even hold on to a coffee cup. All of these conditions are well known to fraud investigators as being easy to fake but difficult to prove, because apparently no one requires X-rays anymore.
"On one hand, I should tell somebody. On the other hand, I could go get drunk."
His hubris was such that he went on to act as though the two insurance companies he bilked for $440,000 wouldn't dare to question an important man like himself or feel the need to investigate his claims. He filed everything on judicial letterhead and referred to himself as a judge no less than 115 times in the letters, because to suggest that a judge would break the law for personal financial gain is unthinkable. Continuing his masterful game of cunning deception, Joyce used the proceeds to buy a motorcycle, an airplane, a hot tub and plastic surgery for a new girlfriend. Meanwhile, the "disabled" judge was videotaped inline skating, golfing and scuba diving, hopefully all at the same time.
The judge did have the sense to visit a doctor multiple times after the accident to complain about his difficult-to-dispute injury claims, yet went on to apply for and receive a pilot's license, even though he told the insurance companies he had suffered brain damage from the severity of his head contusions. His blatant indiscretion made easy work for the prosecution, and his inevitable fall from grace was swift.
Prison for a former judge is like an MMA fight mixed with snuff porn.
#4. Ronald and Mary Evano Eat Glass
Husband and wife Ronald and Mary Evano took the art of scamming restaurants to a stunning level, and it's hard not to admire their commitment. They would visit restaurants to enjoy a hearty meal, complain afterward that there was something in the food that made them sick and then proceed directly to the nearest emergency room to set the wheels of fraud in motion.
Insurance investigators had a hard time using medical records to disprove the Evanos' claims, because the Evanos ate pieces of goddamn glass during their dinner dates.
"We ate barbed wire, too, but only on special occasions."
The Evanos perpetrated their intestine-grinding fraud for eight years across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland and the District of Columbia. They entered hospitals using assumed names and counterfeit identification at least 12 times either together or separately between 1997 and 2005, and they collected over $200,000 (with $100,000 in unpaid medical bills). This was about as frequently as the scam could be employed, as there was some necessary downtime required between each attempt, because as you may remember the Evanos were eating freaking glass:
"[Ronald] Evano was admitted to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., in October 1999 under the name Ronald Ross. He vomited blood while in the emergency room and later passed two large pieces of glass."
"For the love of God, why didn't I chew?"
In another instance, "Evano claimed he swallowed glass in a frozen daiquiri at a hotel bar in Braintree, Mass. He was admitted to New England Medical Center with broken glass in his small intestine and colon." Some time later, "Both Evanos visited an emergency room with gastrointestinal bleeding in Milford, Conn. Each passed glass fragments, which were recovered."
Colonic devastation and rectal bleeding for $25,000 a year. This is still technically a better gig than working at Arby's.
Ronald was arrested in 2006, but Mary went on the run, gaining the attention of America's Most Wanted before she was finally captured in 2010.