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Old 01-30-2003, 09:58 PM   #1
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There Is Money To Be Made In The Art Of Slip & Fall

I wonder if Bono's American Wife and her husband have ever iheard of this couple?


Woman pleads guilty to slip-and-fall scams


News staff writer

Before Carol Diane Stewart slipped up for the final time, federal prosecutors said she and her husband bilked as much as $40,000 from insurance companies by faking falls in area stores.

Stewart, 33, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a conspiracy charge, acknowledging to a judge that she staged "slip-and-fall" accidents in businesses and then used doctored medical records to collect for pain and suffering.

"She would get checks from $2,000 to $5,000 per instance," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Brunson.

The couple pulled the scam at least a dozen times from 1995 to 2001. They targeted such places as Butler Imports, the Silk Tree Factory, Big Saver Thrift Stores and The Mill Bakery Eatery & Brewery on Southside.

Stewart, of Warrior, would slip on a wet portion of the store's floor, file a report with the business and follow up with the store's insurance company. Stewart told U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson that she would use her old medical records, change the date and send them to the insurance companies. Sometimes she would go to the hospital to get X-rays, she said.

Brunson said the two also used bogus Social Security numbers and birthdates. They also provided fake documents to back up claims of lost wages. Stewart was unemployed and her husband is on disability, Brunson said.

Stewart could face up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. Johnson set a April 30 sentencing date.

Brunson said Stewart agreed to pay restitution, which will be determined later. But the amount of checks mailed in the scam range between $20,000 to $40,000, Brunson said. The government will recommend that Stewart get credit for accepting responsibility and receive a sentence at the low end of sentencing guidelines.

A grand jury indicted Stewart and Ronnie Stewart in 2002. Ronnie Stewart was being held in Dayton, Ohio, awaiting return to Birmingham's federal court, where he is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

Brunson said their scam began to unravel in November 2000 when the National Insurance Crime Bureau alerted local law enforcement authorities, including the FBI. Many of the stores had the same insurance companies.

Ed Sparkman, a NICB spokesman, said the slip-and-fall scam has been around for a long time. He said such con artists usually fall on something wet they have planted at the scene.

Sparkman said most insurance companies settle usually a few thousand dollars to avert a large payoff and costly challenges.

He said most scammers claim to have a soft-tissue injury, involving headaches, sore necks and backs, that cannot be confirmed or denied by a doctor.

Sparkman said NICB, which is based in a Chicago suburb, has 150 investigators to fight insurance fraud. He said the industry estimates that 10 percent of all claims are fraud.

"That's a conservative estimate," he said.

He said the slip-and-fall con is just one of many scams practiced. He said many continue with the fraud until they are captured on a store's videotape.

"People are very good at it," Sparkman said. "When they realize how easy the money is, they think they will probably not get caught. People become greedy. Greed takes over."

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Old 01-30-2003, 10:38 PM   #2
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How can people do that? Sheesh...

I actually think slip and fall cases in general are stupid. I slipped on ice in Wal*Mart's parking lot earlier this month when getting out of my car. I fell and smacked my head on my car. It hurt like hell, and I even bled. So what am I going to do? Sue Wal*Mart cuz I'm a klutz??? Whatever.

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Old 01-30-2003, 11:01 PM   #3
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Never heard of those two but boy could I tell you some stories.

There are so many crooked doctors and lawyers out there who are more than willing to help professional claimants make a nice living. And it really is easier and more cost effective for the insurance companies to pay these crooks off and close their files.

Our main client writes assigned risk policies and some of their adjusters are carrying caseloads of 75 to 100 open claims...there is no way humanly possible one person can keep up with that many files so they send the obvious frauds or questionable cases to us and try and clear the rest as quick as they can. I don't know about other states but in California, an insurer has to respond to a claim within 30 days and show a good faith effort that the claim is being resolved...which means a quick payout on the nuisance type slip and falls.

That is why you and I pay so much for auto and homeowners insurance and businesses pay an arm and a leg for liability coverage.
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Old 02-01-2003, 07:17 AM   #4
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These claims are quickly settled because (i) they involve "soft tissue injuries" which are somewhat ambiguous and cannot be fully measured and (ii) the potential lottery windfall known as "pain and suffering".
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