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Joe Trucker opened his mail and found an offer for commercial trucking insurance from Writer’s Direct Incorporated. The prices looked too good to be true, so Joe got out his checkbook and took advantage of the great offer. He filled out the application and mailed it with his check to Miami. Once received in Florida, the money was routed to the Caribbean island of Antigua. Then, Joe’s check (and the checks of others who responded to the same deal) got put in a Federal Express envelope and mailed to a post office box in Chandler, Arizona. Mary Lou’s Market would then run the check through a business checking account at a Bank of America. Shortly thereafter, cash would be deposited into another account at a Wells Fargo Bank branch. The strange characters and the odd money path are suggestive of a poor movie script, and if the script were allowed to continue to a rightful conclusion, the truckers would drive their big rigs through the offices and houses of the bad guys and all would be right with the world once again. But this ain’t no movie, and justice is agonizingly slow for people seriously injured in accidents which were (not) covered with worthless paper policies.
Postal investigators have put together what they believe is the true story behind the scam, and authorities have issued a 37-count indictment against those individuals who allegedly benefited. Investigators utilized wire-taps and surveillance. They even posed as truckers and purchased an insurance policy. They relied upon subpoenaed records from banks, telephone companies and the US mail. The picture that came into focus was one of absolute fraud and deceit.
An all-day surveillance of suspects J. Brian Lamb and Laura Palacios helped authorities put the pieces together.
% Just before noon, Palacios picks up a Fed Ex package addressed to Transportation Management. The package was sent from the Caribbean island of Antigua.
% Palacios drives to an area behind the Chandler Justice Court Q where Lamb is the Chandler Justice of the Peace. She slides the envelope into the driver’s side window of Lamb’s pick-up truck.
% Lamb later takes the envelope to Mary Lou’s market in south Phoenix. When he exits the market after about 12 minutes, he is carrying a Priority Mail envelope and a paper bag.
% Lamb makes a large cash deposit to the account of suspected co-conspirator Darin Tarwater.
Subpoenaed records show that Mary Lou’s Market makes an exceptionally large deposit to their business account within 24 hours of Lamb’s 12-minute visit. (Investigation revealed that the market cashed $197,000 worth of checks for Lamb during a 15-month time frame). Besides Writer’s Direct, the name American Transport was also used.
But the scam gets even thicker and deeper. Authorities believe that Nelly Herrera, an employee of a Toronto insurance brokerage firm Q and the fourth suspect in the case Q entered into a little side agreement with Palacios to skim off the top. Not only did the two women skim thousands of dollars from the bogus operation, they were also in the process of setting up their own competing scam. Their intent was to refer Lamb’s customers to a toll-free number. Palacios and Herrera, of course, controlled that toll-free number.
Court appearances resulted in the expected “Not Guilty” pleas. Now all Joe Trucker can do is wait for the chips (buffalo chips?) to fall as they may. The known total monetary damage is more than $1.5 million … but that’s just in bogus premium collected. The real damages are immeasurable … those victims seriously injured in accidents. At least one man paralyzed in an accident and another man seriously burned have learned that the insurance they purchased was just so much paper, and there’s no company to cover their medical expenses.
The evidence obtained during the four-year investigation is extensive. But Lamb’s shouts that he’s “an innocent man” are loud. Time will unravel this most confusing tale.
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