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L.A. woman sentenced to federal prison for life insurance fraud scheme

City News Service | 4/23/2013, 10:18 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- A Los Angeles woman who created bogus death certificates, bought a burial plot, buried an empty casket, and staged a phony funeral to lend credibility to an insurance fraud scheme was sentenced today to a year and a half in federal prison.

Jean Crump, 70, was found guilty last year of federal mail and wire fraud charges stemming from the scam in which she and others purchased insurance policies for non-existent people, killed them off on paper and then staged their funerals.

"She dealt her cards, and they have come home to roost," U.S. District Judge William D. Keller said, telling the defendant that "you don't have a license to commit crime because you're older."

Crump was also ordered to pay restitution of about $315,000 and serve one year on supervised release after her release from prison. "She has shown no remorse, zero," the judge said. "To me, that's
offensive."

Crump declined to make a statement prior to sentencing.

After two insurance companies began investigating the phony claims, Crump and her accomplices exhumed the casket, filled it with a mannequin and cow parts and had the casket cremated, evidence at the defendant's 2010 trial showed.

Crump and others filed false documents with the county of Los Angeles stating that the remains were cremated and scattered at sea, even though no corpse existed; and Crump then offered a medical doctor $50,000 to create medical records supporting the fake death certificate, according to evidence.

Crump and accomplices defrauded several companies that advance cash to cover funeral expenses in exchange for a portion of the decedent's life insurance policies, preparing four fake invoices claiming that the phony funeral was held at three different mortuaries; and two companies advanced costs to cover the phony funeral, according to prosecutors.

Co-defendant Faye Shilling, 64, of Hawthorne pleaded guilty to a pair of wire fraud counts and was sentenced in January 2012 to a two-year prison term and ordered to pay a share of the restitution.

At the time of their arrests Crump worked at a now-defunct Long Beach mortuary and Shilling was a nurse phlebotomist.

Crump "knew how to fake the death certificates," Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant B. Gelberg told the court today. "She knew what had to be said to the life insurance companies so they would pay."

Gelberg said that while the defendants attempted to steal over $1.2 million, they actually received about $315,000, of which Crump was paid $12,000.

However, the prosecutor said, the scheme would have continued if the defendants had not been caught.

Christine Alexander, who was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony, told jurors during Crump's trial that she posed as Davis' niece and caretaker in order to collect $50,000 on a life insurance policy in his name.

Alexander testified before Keller at the trial that she and Shilling were directed by Crump to go to several mortuaries to try and collect a $32,000 cash advance on the policy but were unsuccessful.