Las Vegas couple pleads guilty to charges stemming from sales of - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Las Vegas couple pleads guilty to charges stemming from sales of phony insurance agreements

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Las Vegas couple pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony charges stemming from a $3 million insurance scam in which hundreds of seniors in San Diego County and other parts of the state were tricked into buying phony "in-home service agreements" for tasks such as cooking, cleaning and bathing.

Michael Woodward, 50, pleaded guilty to residential burglary, theft from an elder, sale of insurance without authorization and failure to file a tax return, along with an allegation that he stole more than $500,000.

He faces an 11-year-old prison term, with sentencing set for Aug. 8.

Melissa Woodward, 47, pleaded guilty to failure to file a 2006 tax return and will be placed on five years probation when she is sentenced the same day as her husband.

Both defendants remain free after posting $1 million bail.

Judge Laura Halgren told them that they would be responsible for more than $3 million in restitution.

Prosecutors said they have identified up to 250 victims in San Diego County and another 150 to 200 victims in the rest of California. Hundreds of additional victims were located in Texas, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington, said Deputy District Attorney Michael Zachry.

The prosecutor said losses include $1.8 million in San Diego County, $1.2 million in other parts of California, and another $46,700 from other victims.

The Woodwards were arrested at their home in Las Vegas on April 10 and extradited to San Diego.

"The defendants in this case were ruthless and heartless in the way they targeted the elderly and sold them fake insurance policies," District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said when the Woodwards were arrested April 10 at their Las Vegas home.

The defendants would target the elderly at their homes, telling them that for a prepaid annual fee, they would have access to an unlimited amount of non-medical services such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, dressing, laundry and shopping. To receive services, Michael Woodward told the victims they should call him and provide a doctor's note, prosecutors said.

In reality, the offer was a sham, according to authorities, who said Woodward and his wife were the only employees of the company and were not able to provide the in-home services he promised. The most he did included paying a third party to provide the requested services, or reimbursing seniors for the expense of acquiring services on their own, prosecutors said.

Inexpensive claims were often paid, but when victims made claims that were more expensive, Michael Woodward would not return phone calls and would reject the claim, according to prosecutors. The defendant also routinely returned to victims' homes to collect additional premiums, well beyond the original cost he quoted for the plan, prosecutors said.

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