Fraud News Update 11.14.14


Fraud News

Fraud News Update 11.14.14: This week’s Fraud Solutions news update features: When Cancer’s Criminal (Cancer Impersonators), Personal Responsibility (or a lack thereof), Houston We Have a Problem (Research Fraud), Academic Impostors (Working in the Government Ranks?) and McCrotch 2.0 (Here We Go Again!).

Read on for more topical information and our insights, observations and unique commentary on the weekly fraud news. Like our content? Feel free to share Fraud News Updates with your network or colleagues.

When Cancer’s Criminal

Cancer’s a crime all the time given the innocent people it kills tragically. But in this case Southern California authorities are alleging that an Orange County woman, Cristina Lagman, faked her cancer illness and that’s criminal. Lagman claims she has cancer but is “feeling better.” However, her credibility’s questionable given the news Orange County Register news reports about her criminal past:

“Lagman is on probation for a 2013 embezzlement conviction. Court records say she stole more than $1,800 from her former employer, Vail Lake Resorts near Temecula, by using their credit card machine to refund money to credit cards belonging to her and her girlfriend. Lagman was also convicted of welfare fraud in 2012, court records show.”

A person whose credibility isn’t questionable is the doctor who Lagman claimed treated her. Not only has he stated to authorities that he didn’t write the letter she provided authorities but has never treated her. Other medical facilities are also on record stating they have no record of having treated her for cancer.

If what authorities are claiming is true, and Lagman’s faked having Cancer to take advantage of other people’s financial generosity, then besides committing fraud, she’s disgraced the memory of all the valiant and courageous individuals who’ve died fighting this terrible illness.

Sadly, she’s not the only one who authorities are claiming faked cancer to reap financial rewards. Apparently faking cancer to take advantage of others financial generosity is a common fraud diagnosis.

Personal Responsibility

Regular readers of the Fraud News Update, know that we’ve followed the breaking academic scandals in major D1 college sports closely. As we said at the time, the stories are a “powder key” waiting to blow! This story reminds me of what’s wrong with our society today: no one takes responsibility for their own actions. It’s always someone else’s fault.

In the UNC story, there’s NO doubt that administrators at UNC were complicit in the scandal. But football players and other athletes are not devoid of responsibility for their actions which contributed to the scandal as well.

Case in point, in this fraud news story there’s now been a class action lawsuit filed by a former football player. Again, I acknowledge that UNC faculty, coaches and administrators were involved but the players were as well. It “takes two to tango” and both the administrators, faculty and students were all dancing.

For the players to now come back and “sue” the school when they “played the game” is but one more case of individuals not taking responsibility for their own actions.

The athletes involved could have insisted on taking the classes they were interested in, they didn’t have to take paper classes, they could have written their own papers and completed their own assignments or left the college (transferred) for other collegiate opportunities if they didn’t like the academic shenanigans but they didn’t.

The facts are, that the athletes (for whatever reason) participated in the academic fraud. They could have pushed back at the time and “just said no.” But they didn’t, so now we have a lawsuit to right their academic wrong… really?

It’s time for people to stand up and take responsibility for their own actions.

“Houston, We Have a Problem”

Space, the final frontier. Well,maybe not for this Lehigh University professor (Yujie Ding) who’s now been accused of fraud in a NASA contract.

According to a fraud news article in the Morning Call, “Ding, 52, has been a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Lehigh University since 2002, according to his profile on the university’s website. He was preparing to flee the United States to Reykjavik, Iceland, when NASA special agent Erik J. Saracino moved in to arrest him last week according to the complaint which was filed Monday but sealed until Ding’s arrest Tuesday.”

I don’t know if I’m more dismayed with another academic fraud story OR impressed bv the fact that NASA has Special Agents…or is that Space Agents? Who knew? Too Cool!

Academic Impostors in Your Ranks?

This fraud news story is disturbing on several levels. According to the AP, as reported by ABC News, “An Army statistician obtained a security clearance and worked for years on sensitive battlefield trauma research while lying about holding advanced degrees.” As the story goes, according to inquiries by the AP:

  1. Amy Apodaca said she had a PhD – She didn’t!
  2. Amy Apodaca said she had a Master’s degree – She didn’t!
  3. Amy Apodaca said she had a B.S. in biomedical engineering – She didn’t! She had a B.A. in Sociology.

Aside from the academic fraud, perhaps even more troubling are these two facts: When confronted by a whistleblower, the Army failed to do the thorough due diligence necessary to fully uncover the truth behind Apodaca’s academic credentials.

Apodaca was able to pass government background investigations and obtain a security clearance, despite her true academic background, exposing gaping holes in the information verification and due diligence processes used to vet employees in sensitive government positions.

Once the story broke publicly, the Army back peddled from their original position, Apodaca quit and screening/clearance procedures were reviewed and reportedly tightened.

McCrotch 2.0

It’s been 20 years since the famous McDonalds coffee in the lap lawsuit and in this fraud new story, a woman (Selena Edwards) in California has been charged with insurance fraud after authorities allege she committed fraud when she reported hand injuries sustained after purchasing coffee from McDonalds.

The California Department of Insurance is reporting that Edwards “faces 21 felony counts of fraud for filing an injury claim in which she said she was handed a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through with an improperly secured lid that allowed the hot liquid to spill on her hand.”

There’s liability if it happened but fraud if it didn’t and that’s what authorities are alleging is the case here.

Fraud News – The Bottom Line

Fraud – empowering people to break the law. It’s a way of life for some and every fraud has a story. At Fraud Solutions, fraud is our world and we’re passionate about prevention. Being proactive is key, so, follow us each week as we cover the fraud beat with added insights, information and unique commentary on stories making the fraud news.

Those are our insights. What are yours?

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