Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced that Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed November 15-21 as Fraud Awareness and Prevention Week
. It is part of an international movement to promote anti-fraud awareness and education.
“Even though fighting fraud is a year-round priority for the Minnesota Commerce Department, this is a week when we make a special effort to raise public awareness,” said Rothman. “Fraud takes many forms, but the common factor is when someone uses deceit to obtain illegitimate financial gain. Victims can be individual consumers and investors as well as businesses and government. The bottom line is clear: Everyone loses if fraud wins.”
Fraud costs businesses and organizations worldwide an estimated five percent of their annual revenues, according to a study conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).
Insurance fraud is one of the most costly financial crimes in America. According to the FBI, the annual cost of insurance fraud is estimated at more than $40 billion, adding $400 to $700 each year to the insurance premiums paid by a typical American household. And this figure excludes the cost of health insurance fraud.
Rothman said he has made it a priority to bolster the Commerce Department’s anti-fraud efforts.
As Minnesota’s largest state law enforcement unit focused on financial crimes, the Commerce Fraud Bureau is a recognized leader in insurance fraud and white-collar crime investigations.
The Fraud Bureau’s caseload has increased dramatically. The number of referred cases more than doubled between 2007 and 2014. Fraud Bureau investigations led to nearly 200 state and federal criminal charges in 2014, compared to fewer than 60 in 2013. The economic impact of these crimes was over $59 million.
Rothman highlighted several recent cases investigated by the Fraud Bureau:
Sean Meadows, of Eden Prairie, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for using his financial planning and asset management firm to operate a Ponzi scheme and steal more than $13 million from at least 100 victims.
Susan Elizabeth Walker, a financial adviser from Plymouth, was sentenced to 88 months in prison for stealing more than $1 million from her clients.
Natasha Howard, of Saint Paul, was convicted in Ramsey County of selling forged insurance cards.
Gerrard Leonard Roy, a Prior Lake construction company owner, was recently indicted on federal charges for submitting fraudulent insurance documents to obtain millions in government contracts.
Dennis Lee Olson II, of White Bear Lake, has been charged in Ramsey County with draining his grandmother’s financial accounts while she was in an assisted living facility and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Michaela “Kim” Kruger and Richard A. Kruger, owners of a Paynesville insurance agency, have been charged in Stearns County with defrauding funds from their clients.
Primary funding for the Commerce Fraud Bureau comes from an assessment on insurance companies that operate in Minnesota.
Despite the Fraud Bureau’s rising caseload and strong results, funding has remained at the same level since it was created in 2004. He said the Commerce Department has been seeking legislative approval to increase the assessment to strengthen the Fraud Bureau’s capabilities.
The Commerce Department also works with law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, banks and credit unions, senior groups and professional associations such as accountants to help educate Minnesotans on how to avoid being victimized.
“We are working hard every day to protect Minnesota consumers, investors and taxpayers,” he said.
Commerce is here to help
If you have questions or concerns about a possible fraud or scam, contact the Commerce Department’s Consumer Services Center by email at email@example.com
or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3