Former Director Of National Prearranged Services, Inc. Pleads Guilty To Making False Statements In Connection With Purchase Of Insurance Company
St. Louis, MO - HOWARD A. WITTNER pled guilty today before United States District Judge Jean C. Hamilton to two felony counts of making false statements intended to deceive insurance regulators in connection with the acquisition and administration of the Professional Liability Insurance Company of America ("PLICA"). Wittner also pled guilty to willfully permitting a felon to engage in the business of insurance. Wittner faces between one and five years in prison for his crimes.
Wittner, who served as trustee of the family trust whose holdings included National Prearranged Services, Inc. and Lincoln Memorial Life Insurance Company, admitted to making multiple false statements to the New York Department of Insurance in order to obtain approval for the trust to acquire PLICA, a New York medical malpractice insurance company. The statement submitted by Wittner and others failed to disclose several material facts, including the ultimate source of the money being used to purchase PLICA and the fact that Wittner's co-defendant James Douglas Cassity would be involved with its management and operations. Wittner admitted that he knew the statement was false and intended to deceive the New York Department of Insurance so that it would approve the trust's acquisition of PLICA. Wittner also admitted to submitting an annual statement to the New York Department of Insurance that concealed the existence of numerous agreements and transactions with affiliated persons and entities that required disclosure.
Wittner served as the trustee for the Cassity family trust since at least 1990. At various times during his trusteeship, Wittner also served as a Director of both NPS and PLICA and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forever Enterprises, Inc., the parent company of Memorial Service Life Insurance Company and Lincoln Memorial Life Insurance Company.
Wittner pled guilty to two counts of knowingly making a materially false statement to an insurance regulatory agency for the purpose of influencing the agency's actions (counts 45 and 46). Wittner also pled guilty to a felony count of willfully permitting James Douglas Cassity, whom he knew to have been convicted of a felony involving fraud or dishonesty, to exercise significant control over PLICA and NPS' affiliated insurance companies (count 50).
Sentencing for Wittner has been set for November 7, 2013. Also today, Wittner's co-defendant Randall Sutton, the former president of NPS, pled guilty to four counts of fraud, money laundering and misappropriation of insurance premiums. Wittner's co-defendants James Douglas Cassity, Brent Douglas Cassity and Sharon Nekol Province have each pled guilty to participating in the fraudulent scheme. Wittner's co-defendant David R. Wulf is scheduled to appear for trial starting on August 5, 2013. As is always the case, charges do not constitute proof of guilt and every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Wittner's case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Steven Muchnick, Charles Birmingham and Richard Finneran are handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.