The New Mexico Senate passed a bill that would increase insurance fraud penalties by empowering courts to combine the insurance money stolen by multiple schemes into one larger dollar amount that triggers longer sentences and larger fines. State Sen. Carroll Leavell sponsored SB 117, which passed Feb. 17, 2009.
A staged-accident ring, for example, might bilk several auto insurers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars with dozens or more fake injury claims. Combining these claims into one larger dollar sum for sentencing purposes can greatly magnify the final penalty, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. Several states permit courts to aggregate stolen insurance money when sentencing swindlers. Some laws fall under the state’s insurance codes, and others under their general criminal code.
“Your legislation clearly is in the mainstream of how the states look at insurance fraud crimes,” Howard Goldblatt, the coalition’s director of government affairs, wrote to Leavell.
The bill “tracks the concepts in the coalition’s model insurance fraud law … it is important to understand the total loss due to insurance fraud before determining the penalty,” wrote Goldblatt, who earlier had urged Leavell to introduce the bill this session.
The state House of Representatives still is debating a companion measure. The coalition also supported that effort in letters to two key House committees. But the window for final passage is narrow, Goldblatt warned.
New Mexico’s legislature closes for the year on March 19 after opening recently on January 20.