Alleged Scammers Had the System Down Cold
Times Staff Writers
May 23, 2006
A pair of elderly women accused of fraudulently collecting more than $2 million in life insurance on two homeless men demonstrated a remarkable knowledge of the intricacies of life insurance policies, officials said, and aggressively used this expertise in pressing their claims.
Insurance industry experts familiar with the prosecution's case said that Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt took advantage of a provision that makes a policy valid after two years even if it was obtained using fraudulent information on the application.
When it was time to collect, officials said, Golay and Rutterschmidt took a hard-line stance.
"They were bullying the insurance companies into making sure they paid off, threatening a lot of lawsuits," said Marty Gonzalez, chief investigator for the fraud division of the California Department of Insurance. "In one instance, they filed a complaint with the Department of Insurance, saying their claims were not being handled properly. They knew how to deal with these companies. They were very comfortable trying to collect on the money they felt they had coming to them."
In 2001, the family of one of the homeless men took the pair to court, suggesting that foul play was involved in Paul Vados' death in a Hollywood alley and that the women should not receive proceeds from the life insurance.
Vados was struck by a car and killed in an alley off La Brea Avenue in Hollywood on Nov. 8, 1999. McDavid was found dead in an alley off Westwood Boulevard just south of Wilshire on June 22, 2005. Both men died of multiple traumatic injuries to their upper bodies, according to coroner's reports.
The insurance industry does not maintain a central registry to look out for possible life insurance fraud. By contrast, the industry has systems in place designed to detect fraud involving people who take out multiple auto insurance policies on a single vehicle.