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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
David Paulson, 410-576-6357
dpaulson@oag.state.md.us

Attorney General Gansler Secures Felony Fraud Conviction
Former Montgomery Co. insurance agent pleads guilty to insurance fraud

BALTIMORE, MD ( Oct. 19, 2011) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that Mohammad “Michael” Elhawa, 42, of Damascus, was convicted on a single count of felony insurance fraud. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Paul Weinstein, who presided over the guilty plea, scheduled sentencing for December 19.  The maximum penalty for felony insurance fraud is 15 years incarceration and a $10,000 fine.

“Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime,” said Attorney General Gansler. “When the insurance company pays claims that aren't real, everyone's rates increase to cover the loss. We're the victims and the money lost is eventually our own.”

Elhawa, a former insurance producer, filed an insurance claim and police report with Progressive Insurance Company alleging his 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe was stolen on January 12, 2008. Progressive, Elhawa's insurer, paid $48,000 on the claim.

An investigation revealed Elhawa's Tahoe had been shipped overseas to Tunisia on July 3, 2007, six months prior to the filing of the claim.  When interviewed by investigators, Elhawa asserted he loaned the car to a business associate in 2007 and the business associate shipped the vehicle overseas without his permission. Elhawa told investigators he lied to Progressive because he was struggling to make payments on a car he could not get back from his business associate.

This conviction follows a joint investigation by the Insurance Fraud Division of the Maryland Insurance Administration and the Office of the Attorney General. In making the announcement Attorney General Gansler thanked Assistant Attorney General Benjamin A. Harris and Insurance Fraud Investigator Homer Pennington for their hard work, and Mujaihid Jones of the Maryland State Police for his invaluable assistance in this investigation.

   

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