Insurance is intended to provide you with a peace of mind if things go wrong. It's meant to provide protection against future risk. Unfortunately, some people invent tragedies and cook up scams in an effort to illegally collect money from insurance companies. Thousands of people have made fraudulent claims in the past, sometimes resulting in small sums of money, and in other cases bilking the system for mind-boggling sums. Here are 10 outrageous insurance claims:
1. There's a dead mouse in my soup After claiming to be shocked and upset to find a dead mouse in her soup at Cracker Barrel, a Virginia woman asked the restaurant for $500,000 in emotional damages to wash away her tears. These damages, of course, would be paid for by the restaurant's insurance company. However, the mouse in question underwent an autopsy. Its lungs did not contain soup and its body did not show signs of being cooked -- as it would have been if it had fallen into a steaming vat of soup. The woman, Carla Patterson, and her son were convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion in April of 2006.
2. Pill mill scam While they save many lives, doctors have been known to do bad things. A well-known scam among doctors focuses on over-prescribing medicine. Police refer to doctors' offices that participate in these scams as "pill mills". In order to bill insurance companies for higher amounts, doctors prescribe more medicine than necessary to their patients. Some even prescribe pills to patients who don't need them. This is especially common at "pain management" centers, where pharmacies are part of clinics.
3. Unnecessary heart surgery Can you really trust your doctor? In most cases, your doctor has your best interests in mind. However, some doctors have performed unnecessary procedures on their patients in order to charge insurance companies for the procedures. One of the most infamous is Dr. Andrew Cubria, who performed more than 750 heart operations on perfectly healthy patients over a period of years. After his deadly schemes were uncovered in 2002, he was sentenced to 12.5 years in federal prison.
4. I'm a princess and my jewelry was stolen A con artist, later identified as Lisa Walker, convinced New York high society that she was Princess Antoinette, a member of the Saudi royal family. She used a no-limit American Express Centurion credit card to support her lifestyle – which she also used to buy expensive jewelry. In 2004, Princess Antoinette claimed to have been mugged and told her insurance company that her attacker got away with $262,000 worth of her insured jewelry. Her scam was eventually uncovered. Walker's lawyers pled mental illness and she was sentenced to a one year in a mental hospital. Miller had several other identities, but it was the princess identity that made her infamous.
5. Watered-down drugs You can make a little more money if your drugs go a little further, right? That's what some shady doctors and pharmacists have figured. In these scams, pharmacists have purchased pharmaceuticals and then diluted them to increase quantity and profits. Perhaps the most notorious example of this is the case of Robert Courtney, a former pharmacist who owned and operated the Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2002, he was convicted of pharmaceutical fraud and sentenced to federal prison.
6. Teacher gives students extra credit for torching her car I'll give you an "A" for arson. In 2005, a teacher from Texas, who was behind on her car payments, offered two of her students some extra credit outside the classroom. Tramesha Fox offered the struggling students a passing grade if they agreed to steal and torch her car. This way, she reasoned, she could collect the insurance on it. The scheme was uncovered after the students, who had been failing her class, ended up with good grades. Fox was charged with insurance fraud and arson, and the two students were charged with arson.
7. I've lost my eight ton cotton picker Farming equipment is expensive. If you're a struggling farmer, it may be tempting to report your eight ton cotton picker stolen in an attempt to collect the insurance money for it. Something like this happened in Georgia in 2000. Investigators believe a farmer buried his mammoth cotton picker in order to defraud his insurance company out of $100,000. It took 12 hours to excavate it.
8. My mother set my house on fire! Murder and arson, grouped in one. Marc Thompson, an investment executive from Chicago, needed money to finance his lifestyle. In 2002, he decided to burn down his house to collect $730,000 in insurance money. But he needed someone to frame – his mother. He placed his 90-year-old mother, who was alive, in the basement. He wanted to make it look like she committed suicide. He covered everything in lacquer and set fire to the house. He collected some money from his home insurance company. However, since his mother's death was initially listed as an apparent suicide, the life insurance company would not payout. After further investigation, though, Thompson's crime was exposed and he's now in jail.
9. My husband died in a canoe accident In order to collect a fat life insurance payout, British national John Darwin and his wife concocted a brilliant scheme. He would go missing during a canoe trip in 2002, and when the police assumed he was dead, she could collect the insurance money. He would move to Panama, Central America. However, after a while he got tired of living by himself in Panama. So he came home, and pretended to have amnesia. In the end, his scheme was discovered after a photo of Darwin and his wife surfaced after his alleged "death." He was arrested for fraud in December 2007.
10. My wife died on 9/11 Some people will always try to profit from tragedy. The terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 were no different. After the tragedy, insurance companies saw a number of fraudulent "9/11 claims." One such example is Charles Gavett from Pike County, Georgia. He told authorities that his wife died in the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. However, his shameless scheme was exposed after his neighbors in Pike County reported seeing her in town – after her alleged death. Gavett has the distinction of being the first person to be arrested for fraud related to the Sept. 11 attacks. But he wasn't the last.