Tag: felony charges

Famous Faces of Fraud: ‘Basketball Wives: LA’ Reality TV Star, Brittish Williams

This series focuses on celebrities and public figures who have either been charged with or convicted of insurance fraud in the U.S. Fraud is not a victimless crime and impacts us all. When people, or celebrities, decide to take advantage of or defraud insurance companies, the rest of us pay the price in the form of increased insurance premiums, that we have no choice but to pay if we want insurance coverage. Highlighting these notorious fraudsters will hopefully help to set an example for the rest of the opportunists who think taking advantage of undeserved benefits is worthwhile, the consequences of defrauding the system are real. These are the famous faces of fraud and their stories.

Reality TV star Brittish Williams made her television debut in 2014 on the third season of VH1’s “Basketball Wives: LA,” a show that revolves around the drama-filled lives of wives, girlfriends, and exes of professional basketball players.  At the time of her first appearance, she was engaged to Lorenzo Gordon, who played for the Obras Sanitarias, a Buenos Aires basketball team. Williams and Gordon also starred on a season of “Marriage Bootcamp” together in 2016, following allegations that Gordon had cheated on Williams with a model he met in a hotel. The details surrounding the cheating scandal, and their “on-again-off-again” relationship that followed, continued to make social media headlines until 2020 when their relationship eventually dissolved. And despite having a child together, the two have been estranged ever since. However, not having a professional athlete fiancé has not stopped Ms. Williams from maintaining her celebrity status. Williams later became the host of a morning radio show called, “The Home Team,” has a podcast called, “The Safe Space,” and she has owned multiple businesses over the years.

Brittish Williams

According to federal prosecutors, Brittish Williams caught investigators’ eyes in 2021 when they had learned that Williams had been lying for years on tax returns and other financial documents. From the year 2016 through 2019, Williams made false statements on her taxes, reporting her businesses’ earnings to be significantly less than what they actually were, and she falsely claimed her niece and nephew as dependents to collect additional money. Around the same time, she also applied for loans, took out lines of credit, and opened bank accounts for her businesses using other people’s social security numbers. She also deposited thousands of dollars’ worth of checks taken from other’s accounts without their knowledge and withdrew the money for herself.

During the pandemic, Williams submitted multiple applications for COVID-19 relief money with false information and was paid roughly $197,000 in government aid. She applied for rent relief programs in the state of California but was already receiving rent reimbursements from the show she was filming at the time.

Additionally, Willliams submitted numerous fake medical bills to her insurance company for reimbursement.

‘VH1 Basketball Wives Season 10: Brittish finds out from lawyer about indictment.’

On September 22, 2021, in the midst of her fraudulent activity, Brittish Williams was charged with five felony counts of misuse of a social security number, four charges of bank fraud, three charges of making false statements to the IRS, three charges of wire fraud, and three charges of aggravated identity theft. She was arrested on October 7, 2021, but pled not guilty to all charges at the indictment and was released on bond.

At the time of her indictment, Williams’ lawyer, Jason Korner, told ‘Law & Crime,’ “We do believe that Ms. Williams was targeted in part because of her celebrity. At this point, the government has not produced or turned over any evidence to us, so we can’t speak to specifics, but we believe when we do look at it, it will reveal that she was targeted because of her celebrity, and what she did was lawful.”

The defense’s tune certainly changed shortly after, as Williams continued her fraudulent activity by cashing a check for $27,800 from the California rent relief program at a bank in St. Louis. The charges continued to rack up, and the evidence was indisputable. Before the proceedings, a plea deal was offered to Ms. Williams.

Brittish Williams
‘VH1 Basketball Wives Season 10: Brittish talks about charges against her.’

In May of 2023, Brittish Williams pled guilty to a total of 15 felony charges. In the plea agreement, Williams took accountability for three pandemic frauds, once insurance fraud, nine applications that contained false income and payroll information for Economic Injury Disaster Loans, four applications for the Paycheck Protection Program, and one for the California COVID-19 Rent Relief Program.

The plea agreement states she received $144,000 in disaster relief loans, $52,647 in Paycheck Protection Program loans, and $27,801 in rental assistance. She also falsified medical bills for a total of $139,479.92 in insurance fraud.

Brittish Williams
‘VH1 Basketball Wives Season 10: Brittish discusses her arrest.’

The sentencing hearing took place on October 24, 2023 in St. Louis, Missouri. In court, Williams expressed remorse for her actions, acknowledging that she made poor decisions, stating, “Opportunities arose, and I made the wrong decisions.” Williams pleaded with the judge for leniency, expressing how “heartbreaking” it would be for her to be apart from her daughter. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey sentenced Williams to four years in prison and ordered her to pay $564,069 in restitution, stating, “You knew what you were doing. You knew it was wrong, and you did it anyway.”

After the sentencing, defense attorney, Beau Brindley, made a statement, “Brittish Williams was punished today, not for fraud, but for her celebrity. The court chose to treat her more harshly due to her status as a public figure rather than treating similarly situated defendants equally. Ms. Williams’ success is not a crime subject to enhanced penalty. And we will challenge this sentence through every legal means available.” Brittish Williams herself has not made any statement.

Brittish Williams
‘VH1 Basketball Wives Season 10: Brittish discusses her arrest.’

The DOJ tabulated over $446,000 in losses due to Brittish Williams’ crimes. Her fraudulent activity victimized taxpayers, banks, creditors, insurance companies, individuals, and programs that were intended to help struggling businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brittish Williams’ combined charges total a potential sentence of up to 55 years in prison, with fines of up to $2,250,000. Considering a jury trial likely would have landed her a much harsher sentence, her four-year plea deal with slightly over half a million dollars in restitution, is certainly not an unfair punishment for her crimes.  

Additional Resources:

ABC News

Los Angeles Times

U.S. Department of Justice

Law and Crime

VH1

Famous Faces of Fraud: Prominent South Carolina Prosecutor, Alex Murdaugh

This series focuses on celebrities and public figures who have either been charged with or convicted of insurance fraud in the U.S. Fraud is not a victimless crime and impacts us all. When people, or celebrities, decide to take advantage of or defraud insurance companies, the rest of us pay the price in the form of increased insurance premiums, that we have no choice but to pay if we want insurance coverage. Highlighting these notorious fraudsters will hopefully help to set an example for the rest of the opportunists who think taking advantage of undeserved benefits is worthwhile, the consequences of defrauding the system are real. These are the famous faces of fraud and their stories.

You may have seen the name, Alex Murdaugh, recently in the news, as he is currently on trial for the murder of his wife and son. What you may not be aware of is that Alex Murdaugh is also pending trial for a total of 80 criminal charges through 16 state grand jury indictments for schemes to defraud a slew of victims for a total sum of nearly $8.5 million. The charges for insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and filing a false police report, in relation to Murdaugh’s September 4th attempted suicide-for-hire plot, qualifies Alex Murdaugh for our Famous Faces of Fraud series.

Three generations of Murdaughs: From left are Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh, Jr., Randolph IV (Alex’s brother), and Randolph III

Alex Murdaugh comes from a prominent American legal family in South Carolina, where he was one of three family members to consecutively serve as solicitor, in charge of prosecuting all criminal cases in the state’s 14th circuit district. Murdaugh’s family also founded a nationally recognized civil litigation law firm in Hampton, South Carolina that specializes in personal injury litigation. As a well-recognized and well-respected attorney in South Carolina, Alex Murdaugh and his family are no strangers to the public eye. However, this family has made national headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past few years.

A simple google search reveals connections that have been made during Alex Murdaugh’s insurance fraud investigation to multiple cases, involving both fraud and murder.

Stephen Smith -A 2015 cold case, the murder of Stephen Smith, was reopened after discovering information relevant to the case while investigating Alex Murdaugh for insurance fraud. The oldest Murdaugh son, Buster, was the same age as Stephen Smith and they went to school together. It is presumed the two would have known one another. Initial investigations had several mentions of the Murdaugh name before the case went cold after being classified as a hit and run.

Gloria Satterfield – The Murdaugh family housekeeper died in 2018 after sustaining injuries falling down steps at Murdaugh’s home, her heirs were granted $4.3 million in a wrongful death settlement paid out by Murdaugh’s insurance, which Murdaugh then embezzled and has since confessed to. The investigation into this fraud scheme revealed that an autopsy had never been performed on the housekeeper’s body. In June of 2022, the body was scheduled to be exhumed for an autopsy to be performed. Investigations into the death of Gloria Satterfield are still ongoing.

Mallory Beach – Alex Murdaugh’s now deceased son, Paul, allegedly drove his family’s boat into a bridge piling while drunk in 2019. Several passengers went overboard including Mallory Beach, who never made it out of the water that night. Her body was found 8 days later. Paul was pending trial for charges related to the incident, and Mallory’s family had filed a wrongful death suit against the family.

Maggie and Paul Murdaugh

This was when investigators initially began digging into Alex Murdaugh’s finances, just before the death of his son, Paul, and wife, Maggie.

On June 7, 2021, Alex Murdaugh found Paul and Maggie dead.

Curtis Smith and Alex Murdaugh arrested in Suicide for hire scheme.

On September 3, 2021, while the investigation into the murders of his son and wife were still ongoing, Alex Murdaugh was accused of stealing money from his law firm and clients. The next day, September 4, 2021, Alex Murdaugh was shot by Curtis Edward Smith, a former client. Allegedly, Murdaugh had hired Curtis to kill him, so that his only surviving son, Buster, could collect the $10 million life insurance payout for his death. However, Murdaugh’s plan failed when he survived the gunshot. He was airlifted to the hospital and 2 days later, September 6, 2021, announced that he would be admitting himself to rehab for treatment of his opioid addiction. Murdaugh also announced his resignation from his law firm at that time.

On September 16th, 2021, Alex Murdaugh was arrested and charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, and filing a false police report. He was booked and released back to rehab on $20,000 bond. In October the official investigation into the Murdaugh’s family finances took place and Murdaugh was arrested again, while in treatment for addiction, on new charges alleging additional fraud. As investigations went on, Murdaugh continued to accrue additional charges for several different fraud schemes discovered during this time.

Alex Murdaugh being escorted into the courtroom.

While pending trial for his many other charges, on July 14, 2022, a jury indicted Murdaugh on two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection to the deaths of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul.

Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial began on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 and concluded on March 2, 2023 with guilty verdicts on all counts. Murdaugh was sentenced to life in prison and despite that life sentence, he still must face the charges for embezzlement, computer crimes, money laundering, conspiracy, and insurance fraud in court.

Alex Murdaugh murder trial day 1.

We will continue to post updates on Murdaugh’s trials and convictions as they occur, but to face ALL of his charges will likely take quite some time. Check back for updates on the Famous Faces of Fraud.

Famous Faces of Fraud: Yellowstone Actress, Q’Orianka Kilcher

This series focuses on celebrities and public figures who have either been charged with or convicted of insurance fraud in the U.S. Fraud is not a victimless crime and impacts us all. When people, or celebrities, decide to take advantage of or defraud insurance companies, the rest of us pay the price in the form of increased insurance premiums, that we have no choice but to pay if we want insurance coverage. Highlighting these notorious fraudsters will hopefully help to set an example for the rest of the opportunists who think taking advantage of undeserved benefits is worthwhile, the consequences of defrauding the system are real. These are the famous faces of fraud and their stories.

Q’Orianka Kilcher is an actress, singer, and activist, most famously known for her work in roles such as Pocahontas in the 2005 film, The New World, the title character, in the 2009 film, Princess Ka’iulani, and recently secured a recurring role as Angela Blue Thunder on the hugely popular Paramount Network show, Yellowstone.

Q’Orianka Kilcher as Angela Blue Thunder in Yellowstone Season 3

While filming Dora and the Lost City of Gold in 2018, actress Kilcher allegedly injured her neck and right shoulder as a result of a car accident which occurred on the set. She obtained treatment for a short period of time and then stopped treatment, as well as stopped responding to the insurance company handling her claim on behalf of her employer. It wasn’t until a year later in 2019 when she attempted to obtain treatment again. It was at that time that Kilcher reportedly told her doctor she had been offered work, but had been unable to accept any of the work because her neck pain was too severe. It was that statement that enabled Kilcher to begin receiving temporary total disability benefits. Temporary total disability is described as a work-related injury or illness that renders an employee totally unable to temporarily return to their former position of employment.

Kilcher collected $96,838.00 in benefits from October 2019 through September 2021. However, she neglected to inform her doctor that just five days prior to the appointment at which the disability benefits were granted, she had been working on the set of Yellowstone. In fact, she had been consistently working on set from July 2019 to October 2019, which was verified based on wage information from her employer at that time. Her doctor, who had been unaware of this, stated that they would not have granted her these benefits had this information been brought forth.  

In May of 2022, Kilcher, who is now aged 32, was charged with two felony counts of workers’ compensation insurance fraud after the California Department of Insurance found that Kilcher allegedly broke the law in collecting nearly $100,000.00 in disability benefits. Kilcher surrendered herself and was arraigned for the charges on May 27, 2022, where she pleaded not guilty to both felony charges.

Steve Cook and Camille Vasquez interviewed by TMZ leaving Q’Orianka Kilcher’s preliminary hearing

At a preliminary hearing held in September, Kilcher officially subbed in new attorneys, Steve Cook and, the viral lawyer from Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial, Camille Vasquez. While Kilcher was not present, her attorneys did make comments to the media after the hearing, Cook stated, “I think Ms. Kilcher’s case sort of illustrates a number of the issues with the [disability] program,” and Camille followed that up with her statement, “I think it effects everyday people and I think that’s something that is important to highlight.”

Cook later states that, “the facts in this case are pretty clear, I just think that the District Attorney may not be aware of all of them.” The attorney’s both confirm that Yellowstone is still filming and that Kilcher is currently working.

Q’Orianka’s Instagram post from Nov. 2, 2022, with an image of her appearing in the Season 5 trailer of Yellowstone

From the media response, it appears that Kilcher is continuing to maintain her innocence. The overall picture that is painted by media articles is that Kilcher had no intent to defraud the system, and that she has, in fact, lost her ability to support her family by having to turn down acting roles due to her injury. Kilcher has also alleged that, because she is an indigenous woman of Quechua-Huachipaeri descent, most roles offered to her are representative of Indigenous People, and therefore are significantly physically active roles. She argues that her injury has caused her to be physically disabled by 10%, which has put her at a disadvantage for these types of roles.

While all the facts and details of the case are not public knowledge at this time, the burden lies on the state to prove that Kilcher intended to defraud the system. Since the last update in September after the preliminary trial, there have been no further updates in the trial’s proceedings. It is difficult to know at this time whether the case will go to trial or if there will be a settlement outside of the courtroom.

Q’Orianka Kilcher posing at the premiere of the film “Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” during the AFI Fest at the TCL Chinese Theatre, Thursday, Nov 3, 2022, in Los Angeles.
Chris Pizzello- invision, invision

Despite an unusual lack of public information available about the current status of the case, there has been plenty of media coverage regarding Kilcher’s professional career. It appears that the actress has had quite the busy year, despite her 10% disability. She most recently acted alongside Channing Tatum in the film, Dog, which was released earlier this year, and her role was confirmed in the new season of Yellowstone, which is expected to air this November. Kilcher has also reportedly been spending time over the past year focusing on her “passion project” – a feature film titled Yesteryear, in which she will star, as well as co-write and produce. The film is still currently in the production process according to IMDB. 

At this point, and to our knowledge, Kilcher is still pending trial for her felony charges. If convicted, Kilcher could face up to five years in state prison and up to $100,000.00 in fines.

UPDATE: As of Friday, February 10, 2023 the fraud charges against Q’Orianka Kilcher were dropped. Very few details were provided regarding why charges were dropped, and it does not appear the case ever went to trial. The only significant information provided was that the Workers Compensation claims adjuster retroactively changed his conclusion regarding her ability to work. Therefore, they determined that fraud was not committed and advised the court they were unable to proceed. It is unclear if there was any type of determination made regarding the money that was paid out to Q’Orianka in benefits.

Fraud is difficult to prove, as there has to be intent to defraud the system, and it seems that Q’Orianka’s legal team did their job in creating enough doubt that there was any intent to defraud the system here. However, often times people can still unintentionally wrongfully collect benefits as they may not understand the laws, rules, etc. Also, when it comes to injuries, the status of injuries and a person’s ability to work can frequently change, so there is a lot of upkeep on these claims on both the person collecting disability and the claims adjusters handling the case.

This fraud case is officially closed, and appears that Ms. Kilcher maintains her innocence.

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