Arson Dog, Scooter, named “Fraud Fighter of the Year”
March 08, 2017, New York, NY — A remarkable arson dog whose nifty nose earned dozens of arson convictions was named New York’s top fraud fighter for 2016.
The trained yellow Labrador retriever Scooter had a memorable 10-year career before passing away in October 2016. She investigated several hundred fires with the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department. She also worked cases for adjacent counties.
Her longtime handler Det. Doug Lerner accepted the Fraud Fighter of the Year award posthumously from the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud today.
The award highlighted the Alliance’s annual meeting this week. The Alliance comprises more than 100 insurers combating insurance crime by educating New Yorkers about fraud’s high costs to consumers throughout the state.
Scooter was a rescue dog. She joined the Rockland County fire unit in 2006. She and Lerner were inseparable in teaming to investigate fires. Arson dogs such as Scooter can smell 100,000 times better than humans. She could discover tiny amounts of gasoline or other firestarter amid piles of blackened ruins. Her evidence proved crucial in helping earn arson and insurance-fraud convictions, said Alliance chair Jim Berrigan, in presenting the award.
Scooter’s evidence led to dozens of convictions. Many involved homes or other buildings burned for insurance schemes. The conviction rate is four times higher for law enforcement departments with canine crime fire fighters.
Discovered in a Chicago dog shelter, Scooter graduated from a rigorous national training program to become a certified arson dog. Only about one of 10 canines graduate. Most are Labrador retrievers. Their keen noses and inquisitive, outgoing personalities make them natural fits for scouring rubble for clues.
Scooter’s friendly personality also made her a favorite in the sheriff’s department, and she delivered results. Scooter helped teach school kids about fire safety as well. Scooter’s demonstrations were popular among students and teachers.
The training of Scooter and her handler was funded by a grant from State Farm.
Inspector General in New York named “Fraud Fighter of the Year”
March 3, 2016, New York, NY — Cited for an aggressive campaign to counter workers-compensation scams throughout the state, New York Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott was honored with the “Fraud Fighter of the Year” award by the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud.
The award was presented during NYAAIF’s recent annual meeting held here.
NYAAIF Chair Jim Berrigan credited the IG’s leadership in compiling an impressive record of prosecuting wide-ranging workers-compensation cases. They included fraud by claimants, medical providers and businesses.
“The IG’s efforts put teeth behind our anti-fraud marketing campaigns in providing valuable deterrence though public awareness and vigorous prosecution,” Berrigan said in presenting the award. He also commended Scott for reaching out and working with insurers to identify fraud trends and develop strategies to counter them.
NYAAIF also previewed its 2016 consumer campaign. It will include TV & radio ads, billboards and a roaming “Fraud Squad” van plastered with anti-fraud messages. The campaign theme is “Insurance Fraud Hurts . . . Everyone.” It launches in May.
Frank Orlando, head of the fraud unit of the state Department of Financial Services, briefed fraud fighters on no-fault fraud trends in the state. The Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau profiled a huge automobile rate- evasion ring that operated in New York and Massachusetts.
NYAAIF also elected four members to three-year board terms: Jim Potts (New York Central Mutual), Frank Sztuk (Hanover Insurance), Ken Jones (Travelers) and James Egner (Farmers Insurance).
NYAAIF is an alliance of 104 insurance companies in New York. NYAAIF was created in 1999 to educate consumers about the cost of insurance fraud and help consumers avoid becoming victims. Visit www.fraudny.org.
MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY CYRUS VANCE HONORED WITH 2014 "PROSECUTOR OF THE YEAR" AWARD
Praised for his willingness to prosecute all types of insurance fraud, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was honored as 2014 Prosecutor. Vance took on a complex and massive disability fraud case against more than 100 New York police and fire fighters.
"In addition to this complex and wide-ranging disability case, the Manhattan DA's office has compiled an impressive list of other successful insurance-fraud cases," NYAAIF Chair Jim Berrigan said in presenting the award during the group's annual meeting.
Successful prosecutions of no-fault clinics, doctors, dentists, contractors, personal-injury attorneys and people who lie to receive Medicaid benefits were among Vance's achievements, Berrigan said.
Vance also publicly supported legislation last year creating a law to criminalize the practice of coordinating staged auto crashes to bilk New York's no-fault system.
Police and firefighters allegedly fabricated psychiatric conditions, many supposedly stemming from 9/11. They sought to fraudulently obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in federal disability payments, Vance said in a keynote address to the NYAAIF members.
"These defendants are accused of gaming the system by lying about their lifestyle, including their ability to work, drive, handle money, shop and socialize, in order to obtain benefits to which they were not entitled," Vance said.
Vance also briefed NYAAIF members on a workers compensation premium-fraud report released yesterday by a grand jury he empaneled.
Fraud by employers in the construction industry alone totaled nearly $500 million each year in New York, Vance said. New steps are needed to prevent and detect workers comp fraud. Increasing penalties for large-scale scams, requiring insurers to conduct more audits of business they insure, and issuing ID cards to workers to use when seeking medical treatment were among the report's recommendations.
NEW YORK D.A. NAMED PROSECUTOR OF THE YEAR
ALBANY - Bringing down a deadly insurance arsonist has earned Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira, the first-ever Prosecutor of the Year award by the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud (NYAAIF).
Sira spearheaded a two-year, multi-agency investigation that resulted in the conviction of Jeffrey Alnutt, his daughter and son-in-law for a deadly insurance-based arson. Alnutt was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.
In 2004, an Alnutt-owned rental property in Johnstown was destroyed by fire, but the investigation fell short of the threshold for prosecution and remained inactive. In 2007, another fire occurred at an Alnutt-owned property in Gloversville, which destroyed the building and resulted in the death of tenant Debra Morris.
After interviewing more than 30 witnesses and working long nights and weekends, Sira discovered that Alnutt was in deep financial trouble, and was set to make $200,000 from the destruction of the building.
Sira’s dedication to rooting out the truth, ability to piece together a complex case, and leadership in the prosecution eventually led to Alnutt’s 25-year sentence.
“Sira succeeded despite difficult circumstances, budget constraints and few support staff,” said John Sargent, NYAAIF chair during the awards presentation. The award was presented by New York Frauds Bureau investigator Phil D’Angelo, who worked with Sira on the case. “Through hard work and relentless drive, District Attorney Sira took down a dangerous case of greed.”
The NYAAIF award launched this year, seeking to recognize best practices and outstanding success in prosecuting insurance fraud in New York. NYAAIF is an alliance of more than 100 insurance companies in New York that was created in 1999 to educate consumers about the cost of fraud and to help consumers avoid becoming victims. For more information, visit www.fraudny.org.