NBC 7 San Diego
Michael Woodward (L) and Melissa Woodward (R) as they appeared in court on April 26, 2013.
A couple accused of scamming nearly $2 million from 238 senior citizens in San Diego has pleaded guilty, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced Wednesday.
Michael Woodward, 50, and his wife, Melissa Woodward, 47, were arrested at their home in Las Vegas on Apr. 10. The couple was then extradited to San Diego to face 11 felony charges including burglary, grand theft, theft from an elder and tax evasion.
According to investigators, the Woodwards are accused of running a fake insurance company used to target local senior citizens.
For nearly a decade, the couple sold phony insurance premiums to the elderly for a prepaid annual fee. In exchange for that fee, the couple promised customers an “in-home services agreement” that supposedly included an unlimited amount of non-medical services such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, dressing, laundry and shopping.
An investigation revealed the Woodwards were the only employees of their company and failed to provide the services they promised.
In San Diego, the couple used the scam to swindle $1.9 million from 238 seniors, officials said.
In some cases, investigators say the most Michael Woodward did for customers was pay a third party to provide the requested services or reimburse seniors for the expense of acquiring services on their own, such as inexpensive housecleaning services.
For more expensive claims, Woodward would reject the customer’s claim or simply fail to return phone calls, officials said. He often used fake names such as “Mike Woods” or “Mike Smith” to make it difficult for customers to reach him or research his past.
He would also routinely return to victims’ homes to collect additional premiums well beyond the original cost quoted for the plan.
Investigators say the Woodwards used this scam to target not only seniors in San Diego, but also hundreds of seniors across Washington, Oregon, Minnesota and Texas. In all, they bilked victims out of $6 million across the nation.
On Wednesday, Michael Woodward pleaded guilty to charges of residential burglary, theft from an elder, theft greater than $500,000, transacting insurance without authorization and failure to file a state tax return.
Melissa Woodward pleaded guilty to failure to file a tax return.
Dumanis says Michael will be sentenced on Aug. 8 to a stipulated 11 years in state prison, while Melissa will be sentenced to probation.
Furthermore, the court ordered the couple to pay a restitution of $3,064,316 to victims in California. A restitution amount to the Franchise Tax Board for tax evasion has yet to be determined.
Dumanis said the guilty pleas are one step closer to justice for victims of the couple's scam.
“The defendants in this case were ruthless and heartless in the way they targeted the elderly and sold them fake insurance policies,” Dumanis said. “I’m proud of the work our Insurance Fraud Unit is to bring justice to these victims and other senior citizens who became victims of elder abuse in the community.”