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No escape from insurance fraud



In order to successfully cheat an insurance company, fraud must use a modicum of skill, intelligence and effort. When an insured person files a claim on expensive property that he did not own and did not have sufficient income and assets to own, it resulted in the arrest and conviction of the insured in The People Of The State Of New York v Terrell L. Murray [19659003] 2020 NY Slip Op 04255, 299 KA 14-00921, Supreme Court of the State Of New York Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department (July 24, 2020). After t he convicted Terrell L. Murray (Murray) of the Court's judgment in the Court's insurance fraud in the third degree and falsified business records in the first degree. Murray appealed.

ANALYSIS

The conviction is due to the fact that an insurance claim was submitted for various real estate objects that were apparently destroyed in a house fire, which was deliberately determined during an investigation.

The evidence of the defendant's previous misrepresentation of the relevant insurance application was correctly adopted as evidence to establish his intent to defraud. The Appellate Division concluded that the probative value of the evidence outweighed its potential for prejudice, and that the court's restrictive instructions minimized any prejudice against defendants.

Evidence of Murray's poor financial condition was relevant to the falsity of the content of the application forms, as it tended to prove that the defendant did not actually own and contained in his residence the many expensive items he claimed were destroyed in the fire. Any error in acknowledging that the evidence is harmless in so far as the evidence of the defendant's guilt, without reference to the error, is overwhelming, and there is no substantial likelihood that the jury would have acquitted the defendant if it had not been for the error.

Defendant further argued that the court erred in granting the People's request to instruct the jury on accessory liability to do so so that it unlawfully introduced an alternative theory of liability, that is, that he acted in collaboration with his wife, who were not charged in the indictment which was reinforced by the statement. The Appellate Division rejected Murray's allegation that an indictment accusing a defendant as principal is not unlawfully amended by stating evidence and instructions to the jury that an indictment is accused of acting in concert to commit the same crime, nor extending a defendant's liability, as it does not there is no legal distinction between liability as a principal or criminal liability as an accomplice.

Contrary to Murray's assertions, the liability instruction did not introduce any new theory of liability in the case contrary to that of the indictment, and his indictment as chief prosecutor thus gave fair accusations against him.

Seeing the evidence in the light that is most favorable to the people and giving them the benefits of each favorable conclusion, there is a valid line of reasoning and permissible conclusions that can lead a rational person to the conclusion reached by the jury on the basis of the evidence at trial.

Contrary to the defendant's specific allegations, although he has not personally completed and signed each application form, the evidence is legally sufficient to establish that he " caused [d] to be presented" a written statement containing material misstatement information in support of a claim for payment under an insurance policy and caused an incorrect entry in a company's business register by meeting the insurance company's representative and submitting to him the forms to be submitted on behalf of the defendant.

As mentioned from the beginning of time: "When you do the crime, you must be ready to do the time." Murray committed the crime. The evidence was clear and overwhelming. Murray's arguments against his conviction were weak and were disposed of immediately, with little effort, by the New York Appellate Division.


© 2020 – Barry Zalma

Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to employment as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, handling insurance claims, bad faith insurance and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and insurers. He also acts as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance-related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and attorney-at-law attorney and more than 52 years in the insurance industry. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and zalma@zalma.com.

Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine / ACE Legend Award.

For the past 52 years, Barry Zalma has devoted his life to insurance, insurance claims and the need to defeat insurance fraud. He has created the following library of books and other materials to enable insurance companies and their claims staff to become professional insurance claims.

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