News and Press Releases

Federal Jury Finds Two Californians Guilty of Wire, Mail Fraud

December 4, 2012

COEUR D'ALENE – A federal jury in Coeur d’Alene yesterday found Michael Robert Persky, 45, and Shelley Lynn Dunkel, 42, of Malibu, California, guilty of multiple counts of wire fraud and mail fraud, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. On October 19, 2012, the jury convicted Persky on ten counts of wire fraud and eight counts of mail fraud; Dunkel was found guilty on six counts of wire fraud and six counts of mail fraud. After the verdicts on October 19, the court discovered that one of the exhibits admitted into evidence at trial was not provided in its entirety to the jury during their deliberations. The court ordered all twelve jurors to return on December 3, 2012, to deliberate again with a complete set of exhibits admitted into evidence at trial. On December 3, 2012, all twelve jurors returned to the federal courthouse and deliberated with the complete set of exhibits. The jury returned a final verdict yesterday.

During the seven-day trial, the jury heard evidence that beginning on November 18, 2005, continuing through June 26, 2008, Persky and Dunkel devised a scheme to defraud American Family Mutual Insurance Company and Progressive Northwestern Insurance Company by submitting false and fraudulent information to obtain homeowners, vehicle, and watercraft insurance in Idaho while his permanent residence was based in California. The jury also heard evidence that Persky falsely claimed as stolen a 2002 XKS Jaguar, a 2005 Winnebago, and two watercraft and trailer. Evidence showed Persky signed documentation relinquishing ownership of the property to the insurance carriers and received settlements of approximately $91,000. When the Jaguar and Winnebago were recovered, Persky took possession of the vehicles, but failed to notify the insurance carriers. He then sold the Jaguar for $21,000. The Winnebago was parked behind a fence at Persky’s California home. Because Persky and Dunkel executed the scheme by transmitting documents via wire and mail, on January 18, 2012, a federal grand jury in Idaho returned an indictment charging twelve counts of wire fraud and eight counts of mail fraud.

Each count of wire fraud and mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release.

Sentencing for both defendants is set for February 4, 2013, before Judge Lodge at the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene.

“The jury’s verdict reinforces the message that those who defraud the insurance system for their own personal gain will be punished,” said Olson. “I commend the jury for their service and for their careful consideration of the evidence.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to ensuring that the U.S. Mail remains one of the most trusted forms of communication in the world,” said Bradley Kleinknecht, U.S. Postal Inspector In Charge, Seattle Division. “This verdict sends a strong message to anyone who uses the U.S. Mail to commit fraud. You will be caught and you will be prosecuted.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and the Idaho State Department of Insurance.