Des Moines Woman Busted for Selling Fake Insurance to Doctors

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You've got to give Brenda MacLaren-Beattie credit for moxie. The 67-year-old former insurance agent, once licensed with both Berkshire Hathaway and Mutual of Enumclaw, sold dozens of bogus insurance policies to oral surgeons over an eight-year period ending in 2009. Guess how she got caught!

If you posited that she paid out an insurance claim from her own checking account, you are correct. This aroused the suspicion of her customer, who then contacted the state's Insurance Commissioner's office.

The office's investigation found that between October 2001 and August 2009, MacLaren-Beattie collected $532,000 from 41 customers--25 in Washington and 16 in Oregon--and that this money went straight into her personal checking account.

After completing its investigation in 2009, the Insurance Commissioner's office turned its file over to the King County Prosecuting Attorney. In November, prosecutors charged MacLaren-Beattie with 14 counts of first-degree theft. Yesterday she pleaded guilty to eight of those counts. She faces sentencing later this month.

MacLaren-Beattie's case was fairly run-of-the-mill, says Insurance Commissioner's office spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis, except for her paying out on claims--the very behavior that did her in. In fact, MacLaren-Beattie paid out on two claims. According to Marquis, one was on an $800 claim for a broken camera, and the other was for $7,000 worth of water damage. A second water-damage claim from the same customer for a similar amount, however, was denied by the actuaries residing in MacLaren-Beattie's head.

According to our Minnesota high-school math, MacLaren netted over $520,000 from her insurance scheme. Not a bad haul. But in the immortal words of John Darnielle, "There's a lot of ways to make money in this world. But I can't recommend insurance fraud."

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