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Ottumwa scam artist sentenced for faking family deaths

Cletus Abongwa Ngwa, 34, (Iowa Insurance Division)

An Ottumwa, Iowa, man will spend 18 months in prison for defrauding two insurance companies.

The Iowa Insurance Division announced on Thursday that Cletus Abongwa Ngwa, 34, had been handed the sentence in September.

Ngwa had previously pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud.

According to the Insurance Division's Fraud Bureau, Ngwa worked with a partner, Venancia Amora Rodriguez, also of Ottumwa.

The two falsely filed insurance claims for the death of two of Rodriguez's sons, as well as her husband.

They claimed all three had died in the Philippines, one of the sons by drowning and the other due to a fever.

The husband was reported to have died of a heart attack.

An investigation led by the F.B.I. determined that all three were alive and well.

Rodriguez was sentenced last year to 24 months for her part in the scheme.

Both Ngwa and Rodriguez will be required to make restitution in excess of $250,000.


Full Press Release from the Iowa Insurance Division

Des Moines, Iowa - Cletus Abongwa Ngwa, 34, of Ottumwa, Iowa, was sentenced in United States District Court in Des Moines, Iowa on September 15, 2017, to an 18-month prison sentence with 3 years’ supervised release and ordered to pay joint restitution in the amount of $260,043 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Ngwa, along with his co-conspirator Venancia Amora Rodriguez, 47, of Ottumwa, defrauded two private insurance companies by filing fraudulent foreign death claims for three of Rodriguez’s family members who were alleged to have died in the Philippines.

The prosecution was the result of a collaborative effort of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Iowa Insurance Division’s Fraud Bureau. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

“These fraudulent acts are intolerable,” Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said. “I greatly appreciate the hard work of our Fraud Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney to help bring these individuals to justice.”

“The FBI is committed to helping protect hard working citizens and corporations from fraudulent activity,” FBI Omaha Field Office Special Agent in Charge Randall Thysse said. “We are committed to investigating these matters and apprehending those who commit such crimes.”

“This is not a victimless crime as the cost fraud is ultimately paid for by consumers through increased insurance premiums,” Iowa Insurance Division Fraud Bureau Chief Jared Kirby said. “Given the amount of fraud that occurs, it is absolutely critical to progressively investigate and prosecute the perpetrators for these insurance fraud offenses to deter future violations.”

Rodriguez was previously sentenced in United States District Court in Des Moines on May 24, 2016, to a 24-month prison sentence with 3 years’ supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $260,043. This sentence followed Rodriguez’s February 19, 2016, guilty plea to mail fraud for her role in the fraud scheme.

“We are proud of the hard work that our team and federal and state partners put into procuring this kind of successful outcome in this case,” SAC Thysse said. “This should send a clear message to anyone who commits these acts they they will be caught and they will face justice.”

The investigation conducted by Federal and State law enforcement authorities concluded that Rodriguez had claimed to Standard Insurance Company, an Oregon-based insurer, that her 17-year-old son died of dengue fever on June 5, 2014, while visiting the Philippines.

Approximately three months later, Rodriguez claimed to the same insurer that her 49-year-old husband had died on August 15, 2014, of a heart ailment while visiting the Philippines.

On March 6, 2015, Rodriguez claimed to Minnesota Life, a Minnesota-based insurer, that her 15-year-old son had died as a result of drowning at a city pool in the Philippines.

During the investigation, it was determined that all three of these individuals were in fact still alive. It was discovered that Mrs. Rodriguez, who was originally from the Philippines, utilized her connections to pay people to acquire fictitious Philippine government documents, which she submitted to the insurance companies to support her claim.

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