clients charged with insurance fraud
March 11, 1999
Allegedly filed false claims that cost Farmers $150,000
A Farmers Insurance Group agent in El Sobrante and 11 of his auto insurance clients
have been charged with fraud for allegedly filing false claims that prosecutors say bilked
Farmers of $150,000.
"We believe this is just the tip of the iceberg" and that the agent may have
filed many more false claims in recent years, Dodie Katague, a Contra Costa County deputy
district attorney, said Wednesday.
Following a two-year investigation by the California Department of Insurance, Katague
charged Gurpid "Gary" Singh Ladher, 47, with 15 felony counts of insurance fraud
that could bring, if convicted, a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Ladher, accompanied by his Walnut Creek attorney, Wright Morton, surrendered Wednesday
in Contra Costa Superior Court. He was booked into the county jail, pleaded not guilty to
the charges, posted bond on $10,000 bail and was released.
In recent days, a team of 40 Department of Insurance and U.S. Postal Service agents
have arrested 11 of Ladher's clients in Northern California and charged each with a single
count of insurance fraud. Four more people are considered suspects. After their arrests,
all the cases will be consolidated in Contra Costa County, said Katague.
If Ladher's clients are convicted, the maximum penalty for each is a five-year prison
Ladher's attorney, Morton, said he did not want to comment on the charges except to say
that Ladher had known of the investigation since May and had made no attempt to flee. In
fact, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Maryann O'Malley set Ladher's bail at $10,000,
down from the $100,000 the Department of Insurance had requested, because she does not
consider him a flight risk, she said.
Ladher allegedly wrote backdated insurance policies for clients who had been involved
in auto accidents or who filed auto theft claims for times when they were uninsured, the
state alleges. Thus, Farmers made payments totaling $150,000 that should not have been
made because no insurance existed at the time of the accident or theft.
Although this allegation is not part of the formal charges in Contra Costa County,
Katague said that Ladher had allegedly received up to $2,000 from each of the clients for
writing the backdated policies.
Said defense attorney Morton, "Mr. Katague is entitled to his opinion, but I have
no knowledge of that."
Of Ladher's clients, the prosecutor said, "They were in a conspiracy. They knew
who they had to go to if they had an accident without insurance."
Ladher has been a licensed insurance agent in California since 1986. If convicted, he
will face an administrative procedure in which his license can be revoked, said Dana
Spurier, a DOI deputy commissioner.
Katague said the investigation had linked Ladher with other cases of alleged insurance
fraud in Los Angeles, but those cases were not pursued. He said they pointed to what might
be many more filings of false claims, beginning in 1995.
"There were several cases we could have charged, but we had to stop," Katague
said. "At some point we have to say we can't charge all the cases in the world but
just take the 16 best ones. We just took the ones we could absolutely prove."