By policyholder & agent
An Opa-locka woman whose mother had just passed away is now accused of insurance fraud for assuming her mother’s identity in filing a series of property insurance claims totaling tens of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile on the other end of the state in Pensacola, a Florida insurance agent has been charged with selling $4 million in insurance policies and pocketing the premiums.
An arrest warrant was issued last week for 62 year-old Cheryl Nadine Mellis of Opa-locka, who is accused of filing seven insurance claims on her mom’s behalf between August 2015 and November 2019. Her mother, Ernestine Boddy, passed away in July 2015, one month before the first claim was filed. The property damage was at her mom’s Opa-locka house, where Mellis and her son had been living for years. While the claims’ damage was real, including a kitchen fire, rainstorm damage, plumbing leak, and later Hurricane Irma wind damage, the claims were invalid investigators say, because Mellis identified herself as her deceased mother – the policyholder – in calls to Security First Insurance Company and American Security Insurance and in subsequent paperwork filings.
Mellis is accused of committing an organized scheme to defraud, two counts of 2nd degree Grand Theft, 7 counts of 3rd degree Grand Theft, and 7 counts of filing False and Fraudulent Insurance Claims.
Meanwhile, Pensacola insurance agent John Michael Thomas is accused of selling fraudulent insurance policies to his customers over seven years, worth about $4 million in premiums, which he kept. He operated as Thomas Insurance, LLC.
The criminal complaint alleges that between September 2013 and December 2020, Thomas operated his insurance business and defrauded customers through a type of insurance fraud known as “premium diversion.” He collected insurance premiums from customers and kept the funds for personal use instead of producing insurance policies, according to the charges. In return, he gave the customers fraudulent documents referencing insurance policies that simply did not exist.
Thomas made his first court appearance last week on wire fraud charges. The arrest resulted from a joint investigation by the FBI and the Florida Division of Investigative and Forensic Services, Bureau of Insurance Fraud. The probe is ongoing to identify all alleged victims in the greater northwest Florida area.
LMA Newsletter of 6-14-21