Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Three plead guilty in insurance fraud case

A Tacoma couple and a neighbor have pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges for their involvement in false insurance claims totaling thousands of dollars.

Anthony Mezias, 37, has pleaded guilty to 1st degree theft, a class B felony. His wife Melissa Mezias, 34, pleaded guilty to "attempted false claims or proof" in an insurance claim, which is a gross misdemeanor.

Sentencing of the two is scheduled for July 12th. In the meantime, the couple must repay $8,800 to State Farm. Investigation work on the case was done by State Farm and by the state insurance commissioner's Special Investigations Unit.

Four years ago, the couple reported that their home was burglarized while they were on a clam-digging trip. Among the items listed in their $50,000 homeowners' insurance claim: a $5,000 plasma TV and $3,000 Persian rug. They said they bought the TV from a Seattle man.

During the investigation, State Farm insurance investigators discovered that the Mezias' neighbor, Brian Emmett, 41, had reported a burglary at his home in Tacoma earlier in 2006. He bought several replacement items, copied the receipts, returned the items to the stores, then submitted the receipts to State Farm anyway. He also submitted a falsified invoice for sports cards he claimed were stolen. All told, investigators found, Emmett filed $11,785 in false claims.

Emmett has pleaded guilty to one count of false claims or proof, a class C felony. He has also agreed to pay back State Farm and to testify against the Mezias', who claimed that he had sold them the $3,000 Persian rug. He says he did not sell them a $3,000 rug.

Note: this post has been updated. The Seattle man was originally charged with one count of false claims or proof, but the charge was dismissed after he testified against the Mezias'.

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