FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC at 410-209-4885
MAY 18, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BEL AIR MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO INSURANCE FRAUD, GUN CHARGE AND MAKING A FALSE STATEMENT IN A PASSPORT APPLICATION
Folder in Defendant’s Car Marked “Scams”
BALTIMORE, Maryland - Michael Charles Horner, age 46, of Bel Air, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to mail and wire fraud in connection with an insurance fraud scheme. In addition, Horner pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and making a false statement in a passport application, charges filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the District of South Carolina, respectively.
A. The Insurance Fraud Scheme
According to the statement of facts provided to the court as part of the plea agreement, from 2002 to 2004, Horner owned a body shop known as Contemporary Automotive (CA) in Bel Air, Maryland. Through his business, Horner would buy, sell, and repair used vehicles and would come into the possession of severely damaged vehicles. Beginning as early as January 2002, Horner developed a fraud scheme where he would take the vehicle identification numbers (“VINs”) off an undamaged vehicle in CA’s possession and place it on a severely damaged vehicle. Horner would then have an accomplice file an insurance claim on the damaged vehicle with the fraudulent VIN. At Horner’s direction, the accomplices would send the insurance forms to the insurance company. After the insurance company received the claim and completed the appraisal, the company would mail and/or wire settlement funds back to Horner’s accomplices. After the settlement of the fraudulent claims, Horner returned the VIN to the original undamaged vehicle. Horner then re-titled and sold the undamaged vehicle to an innocent party who was unaware that a substantial insurance claim had previously been made using the vehicle’s VIN.
Each co-conspirator received reimbursement checks via the U.S. mail and electronic wire transfers from the insurance companies based upon the fraudulent accident claims. The co-conspirators endorsed these checks to CA, and Horner deposited them into a CA bank account. Horner then kicked back a portion of the proceeds received from the insurance companies to the co-conspirators as payment for their assistance.
Between 2002 and 2004, Horner and his co-conspirators filed no less than eight fraudulent claims and obtained at least $288,158.
B. False Statements in Passport Application
On June 28, 2004, Horner applied for a U.S. passport in South Carolina using the false name of “Larry Keith Reprogel.” The application contains a statement that the applicant affirms that the statements made on the application are true. The true Larry Keith Reprogel is currently in a coma and receiving treatment at the Johns Hopkins Geriatric Unit in Baltimore, Maryland.
C. Horner’s Arrest and Gun Possession
On June 1, 2005, the U.S. Marshals arrested Horner in his room at a hotel in Malvern, Pennsylvania. The U.S. Marshals seized various U.S. passports, driver’s licences and a beginner’s learner permit, identification cards and a check card in the names of other individuals, but which bore Horner’s photograph. U.S. Marshals observed a white Toyota Sequoia with a Maryland license tag registered to Horner in the hotel’s parking lot. Inside the Toyota Sequoia law enforcement officers observed two crates containing numerous file folders. One of the folders was marked with the word “SCAMS.” Several other folders were marked with what appeared to be names other than “Horner,” including one that was marked “REPROGEL - BIRTH.” In a search of the vehicle, U.S. Postal Inspectors recovered $86,301 in cash; a loaded .45 caliber pistol; documents relating to Horner’s insurance and identity fraud scheme; blank social security cards and fraudulent social security cards; more fraudulent identifications bearing Horner’s picture; and bank cards bearing aliases associated with Horner. U.S. Postal Inspectors interviewed Horner who stated that he had been committing bank fraud and insurance fraud for the past 20 years.
Horner faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and $250,000 fine for mail and wire fraud; 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for being a felon in possession of a firearm; and 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for making a false statement on a passport application. U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson has scheduled sentencing for August 10, 2006. Horner remains in federal custody.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the investigative work performed by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Marshal Service. Mr. Rosenstein also thanked the Maryland Attorney General’s Office - Insurance Fraud Division and the United States Attorney’s Offices for the District of South Carolina and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for their valuable assistance. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kwame J. Manley and Jefferson M. Gray, who prosecuted the case.
This page last modifiedMay 16, 2006