U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of California
(415) 436-7200
December 18, 2014

Five Defendants Charged in Fraudulent Life Insurance Policy Scheme

SAN FRANCISCO—Behnam Halali, Ernesto Magat, Kraig Jilge, Karen Gagarin, and Alomkone Soundara, a/k/a Alex Soundara, were charged in an indictment unsealed yesterday in federal court in connection with a scheme involving fraudulent life insurance policies while each was employed at the American Income Life Insurance Company (AIL), announced U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Acting Special Agent in Charge Andrew Toth, and Commissioner Dave Jones of the California Department of Insurance.

According to the indictment, the defendants participated in a scheme involving the submission of applications for life insurance policies on behalf of people who did not know that a policy was applied for or issued in their name and/or did not want a life insurance policy. The defendants then shared the commissions and bonuses issued by AIL in connection with the fraudulent policies. The indictment alleges that the defendants paid recruiters to find people willing to take medical exams in exchange for approximately $100, and then took the personal information associated with those people and submitted applications for life insurance in their names, in many cases without the individuals’ knowledge. The defendants also allegedly paid people to participate in a fictitious survey of a medical exam company, and took the personal information associated with those people and submitted applications for life insurance, in many cases without the individuals’ knowledge. In some cases, the defendants allegedly created phony driver’s licenses so that they and their co-conspirators could take medical exams purporting to be the applicants. The defendants opened hundreds of bank accounts to fund the premiums on the fraudulent policies, and typically paid one to four months of premiums before letting the policies lapse, according to the Indictment. The defendants and their co-conspirators also returned verification calls to AIL purporting to be the applicants on the fraudulent applications from telephones set up exclusively for the fraudulent scheme. In an effort to avoid detection, the defendants listed addresses of gas stations and apartment complexes on many of the fraudulent applications, and fabricated the names of the beneficiaries of the policies.

Halali, 29, of San Jose; Magat, 32, of Hayward; Jilge, 30, San Jose; Gagarin, 29, of San Jose; and Soundara, 33, of Oakland, are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; substantive wire fraud counts, in violation of Title 18, United States, Code, Section 1343; and aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, § 1028A(a)(1). Halali, Magat, and Jilge are also charged with money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, § 1957.

The maximum statutory penalties for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and for wire fraud charges in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1349 and 1343 are a prison term of 20 years, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, plus restitution. The maximum statutory penalty for aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A is a mandatory prison sentence of two years. The maximum statutory penalties for money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957 is a prison term of 10 years, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the value of the criminally derived property.

All of the defendants appeared before Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler for their initial appearances yesterday morning, and the case has been assigned to the Honorable Susan Illston, United States District Judge. The defendants are scheduled to have a follow-up appearance before Judge Beeler for ID of counsel and to finalize the defendants bail conditions tomorrow, Dec.19, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. All five defendants are also scheduled to appear before Judge Illston on Jan. 23, 2015, at 11:00 a.m.

Kim A. Berger is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Bridget Kilkenney. This prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the IRS, Criminal Investigation Division, and the California Department of Insurance.

Please note that an indictment contains only allegations. As with all defendants, Behnam Halali, Ernesto Magat, Kraig Jilge, Karen Gagarin, and Alomkone Soundara, must be presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty.

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