Couple Scammed Hundreds of Elderly Out of Nearly $2 Million
San Diego County District Attorney, Bonnie M. Dumanis, charged a fake insurance agent and his wife with 11 felony counts including burglary, grand theft, theft from an elder, tax evasion, and other charges for their roles in bilking $1.9 million from hundreds of San Diego County senior citizens in a scam in which the couple sold phony “in-home service agreements.”
Michael Woodward, 50, and his wife, Melissa Woodward, 47, were arrested at their home in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 10 and extradited to San Diego to face charges. They face up to 16 years in local prison if convicted of the charges.
For nearly a decade, Michael and Melissa Woodward swindled 238 San Diego seniors out of more than $1.9 million in premiums. They would target senior citizens at their homes telling them that for a prepaid annual fee, the victim could get an unlimited amount of non-medical services such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, toileting, dressing, laundry, and shopping. To receive services, he told the victims, they should call him and provide a doctor’s note.
The case was investigated by the California Department of Insurance (CDI) and then referred to the District Attorney’s Insurance Fraud Division for further investigation and prosecution. Franchise Tax Board special agents also assisted in the investigation. Because Woodward and his wife lived in Las Vegas, CDI Investigators contacted the Nevada Attorney General’s Office for assistance. Investigators from the Insurance Fraud Unit of the Nevada Attorney General’s Office provided tremendous help, acquiring a search warrant for Woodward’s residence, making entry and then allowing CDI investigators to search it. As the CDI searched the home, investigators from the Nevada Attorney General’s Office took the Woodwards into custody and transported them to jail.
In reality, Woodward’s plan was a sham. He and his wife were the only employees of the company and were not able to provide the in-home services he offered. The most he did includes paying a third party to provide the requested services or reimbursing seniors for the expense of acquiring services on their own.
Inexpensive claims, such as requests for housecleaning, were often paid, but when victims made claims that were more expensive, Woodward would not return phone calls and would reject the claim. He also routinely returned to victims’ homes to collect additional premiums, well beyond the original cost he quoted for the plan.
The Woodward’s fraudulent activities in San Diego follow similar actions in other states including Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, and Texas. In all, he bilked victims out nearly $6 million across the nation. When dealing with senior citizens, he often used false names, such as Mike Woods or Mike Smith, making it difficult to research his past.