The Dumbest Insurance Fraud Attempts Ever: #11

Posted on October 2, 2014 and updated October 1, 2014 in Humour, Life Insurance Canada News 6 min read

Insurance Fraudster Got Caught After Tweeting: “Catch Me if You Can”

Sharing what’s on your mind, where you are or where you’re going is a daily habit for millions of social media users. People use it to write something funny that can cheer up their friends, to tell their families that they have safely arrived or, in case of convicted criminals on the run, to cheer up the police by letting them know where to find them.

Wanda Lee Podgurski, a former Amtrak clerk who fled after being convicted of disability and insurance fraud in January 2013, surely had a sense of humour. However, Tweeting things such as, “Catch me if you can” after skipping bail shows that not everyone with sense of humour is smart. At the end, her Tweet cheered up mainly District Attorney Bonnie Dummanis after she was arrested in Mexico, just 15 miles from San Diego.

Wanda podgurskiTwitter

The 60 year old woman allegedly slipped and fell at her home in 2006 and claimed that her injuries were so severe that she needed an in-home caregiver. Her insurance policies required that she must be unable to do two or more activities of daily living such as dressing, toileting, transferring, feeding, bathing and mobility. She claimed that she was unable to perform several of these tasks and had doctors sign letters verifying her disability. The doctors believed her stories and relied on her self-reporting. Apparently, she refused to perform certain tasks during some exams.

Podgurski collected more than $664,555 from seven different insurance companies and a government agency in disability payments. She also collected another $261,000 for a false insurance claim involving allegedly stolen jewellery. It was not difficult for her to decide what to do with such amount of money – she travelled over the world. She took her boyfriend on a 16-day vacation in China in 2008, went to the Dominicam Republic, New York, Seattle, Boston, Fort Lauderdale and went on road trips to Key West, Eureka, the Berkshires and other destinations.

There was something suspicious about the lady who held insurance policies with six insurance companies. Before her alleged accident in 2006, she increased the coverage on several of those policies which made her premiums rise to more than $60,000 per year. That was around $16,000 more than her yearly salary at Amtrak. According to the policies, if something happened and she became disabled, she would no longer have to pay the premiums and could start collecting insurance payments of around $40,000 per month.

The insurance companies hired private investigators to check if her disability is real, but all they found was a lively lady with a fresh tan driving herself to the store and walking stairs without any assistance on numerous occasions. They also found out about her luxurious vacations and prosecutors even had a video of her on the Great Wall of China.

She was convicted and everyone was waiting for the sentencing. However, Podgurski never showed up. Instead, Podgurski decided to continue in her opulent lifestyle but in this case, on the run. The court sentenced her to 20 years in federal prison, in absentia, as well as ordered her to pay $1 million in fines and repayment to the insurers.

After she pulled off the insurance scam, Podgurski’s self-confidence grew and she felt that she has to show the police how witty she is. She set up a Twitter account which followed only District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and started to taunt the police. Her Twitter profile read “On the run possibly in Iran”. Sounds like a title of a bad rap song. Nevertheless, she started to poke the police with a stick by Tweeting: “Help find me before I con anyone else”. On June 29 she posted a link to NBC’s news page informing about the search for herself and how she faced more than 30 years in jail for her insurance scam.

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Well, this con-mastermind forgot that she lives in the 21st century and did not realize that she should at least extract geotag information from her Tweets. San Diego County District Attorney Dumanis did not say how authorities tracked Podgurski down he just noted that he gave the information to C.A.T.C.H. (Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team). Her account followed 32 people and agencies, many of them FBI branches and other law enforcement authorities. Ironically the Tweet: “Catch me if you can”, was her last one before she was tracked down and took into custody. Well, District Attorney Bonnie Dummanis finally retweeted: “Caught her. Great work by Fugitive Task Force and U.S. Marshals.”

This eccentric lady was caught at a luxury retirement spot for American expatriates in Mexico, just 15 miles from San Diego. It seems that the Twitter-holic did not loose her good mood as she continued to send Tweets even from jail.

“But for justice sake, I’m glad you caught me.”

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Her enthusiasm probably won’t last long, and her next Tweet: “How dumb am I? Who would go to Mexico. So close yet not far at all”, suggested that she started to realize that her next vacation would be a bit longer as her usual vacations. Bolting and becoming a fugitive added two more years to her 20-year sentence.

She continued with her sassy Tweets one morning, “Hmmmm what to eat in jail this morning? Do you have organic coffee?”

Now she has plenty of time to Tweet and share her prison experience with the rest of the world. She does not even have to remove geotag information, as her location won’t be secret for quite a lot of upcoming years.

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Brian So
Brian So

That was a priceless response from the district attorney after catching her.

But what I’m wondering is, when did they start allowing Twitter in prison?