Six Charged in Insurance Scam Over Fatal Boat Sinking
The alleged conspiracy, which included participants in Texas, Arizona, Canada and the Caribbean, also sold fraudulent liability coverage to nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other residential complexes and hospitality businesses, according to a revised indictment unsealed today in federal court in Houston.
The men “backdated documents after the Ethan Allen accident to make it appear that Shoreline Cruises had not purchased coverage while the vessel was operating on Lake George when, in fact, Shoreline had purchased exactly that type of insurance policy,’’ U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno in Houston said in a statement.
The defendants allegedly falsified financial records sent to Shoreline and buyers of other insurance policies “to create the false appearance that its insurers had financial strength,’’ Moreno said in the statement.
None of the insurers involved in the Ethan Allen’s insurance policy had the financial ability to pay the claims, according to the indictment. The cruise line later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for not having enough crew members on board when its boat capsized and sank Oct. 2, 2005, during a fall-foliage excursion, according to the indictment.
Charged in the alleged scheme are: Christopher Purser, 49, of Houston; Malchus Irvin Boncamper, 56, of St. Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies; Marc-Thibaud Duchesne, 49, a British citizen formerly residing in Houston; William Ballachey, 64, of Brossard, Canada; Edmund Hugh Benton, 52, of Scottsdale, Arizona; and Robert Steve Mills, 55, formerly of Dallas and Ft. Myers, Florida.
Joseph Gibson Jr., Boncamper’s lawyer, declined to comment today, saying only that his client was in custody and en route to Houston after being arrested at the Miami airport on Jan. 14.
Angela Dodge, Moreno’s spokeswoman, said Purser wasn’t able to enter a plea at his arraignment before a magistrate in Houston federal court today as he hasn’t yet obtained a lawyer. He will remain in custody until he can make another court appearance on Feb. 22.
Duchesne is now a fugitive after escaping Jan. 16 from a British prison, where he was awaiting possible extradition to the U.S., Dodge said. The whereabouts of Ballachey and Benton are unknown, and both are considered fugitives, she said.
Mills was arrested Jan. 10 in Florida, after he was charged with trying to influence his daughter to give false testimony to a grand jury, Dodge said. He was taken into temporary custody and moved to Houston, where a magistrate will schedule a bond hearing, Dodge said.
The case is U.S. v. Boncamper, 10-cr-814, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
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