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'Partners in crime' sentenced

April 05, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

An insurance fraud scheme netted three-year prison sentences for a Hagerstown couple Thursday in Washington County District Court.

Susan J. Smith, 30, and James L. Pons, 38, were convicted of filing fraudulent claims of more than $8,000 in automobile damage with Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

Calling them "partners in crime," Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Lisa Hardy told Judge Noel Spence that Smith and Pons worked together before in a $19,000 embezzlement scheme against a vacuum cleaner company.

In addition to those felony convictions, Smith has prior bad check convictions.

"She's just a thief," Hardy said.

Pons' priors also include thefts and non-support of children.

Spence originally imposed five-year sentences before suspending two of those years. He gave both Smith and Pons credit for 121 days they have already spent at the Washington County Detention Center awaiting Thursday's sentencing.

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When released from prison, they will be on probation for two years.

Both Smith and Pons pleaded guilty to one count of felony insurance fraud in February.

According to court records, Smith loaned her 1990 Honda last year to someone who failed to return the vehicle. The next day, the car was found wrecked in the C&O Canal.

After filing a police report of "loaning" her car to someone, Smith learned her policy contained no collision coverage.

Smith then conspired with Pons, her live-in boyfriend, to report to the insurance company that he had taken her car without her permission, court records alleged.

Earl Robinson, an insurance fraud investigator for Liberty Mutual, discovered the discrepancy between the police report and the insurance claim.

The claim was denied and the incident was reported to the Maryland Insurance Fraud Division of the Maryland Insurance Administration. Legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1995 created the unit, which has a staff of 22 and is funded by assessed fees on insurance companies, agents and brokers.

Charges were then brought by the Washington County State's Attorney's office.

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