Scams and shams — May 2015

Retired Blue Jays pitcher Ted Lilly accepts a plea deal to avoid imprisonment for his insurance fraud charges, while Lance Armstrong lands himself a hundred-million-dollar lawsuit.


Ex-Blue jays pitcher sidesteps slammer

Retired major baseball league player Ted Lilly, 39, pleaded no contest to insurance fraud charges in California earlier this year, accepting a plea deal to avoid the offence’s maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. Lilly bought insurance for his recreational vehicle last March, and four days later made a claim for damages to the RV. Investigators found that the vehicle had been in a collision before Lilly insured it; he even requested a repair estimate from a body shop five days before purchasing the coverage. The two-time all-star southpaw, who pitched for Montreal, Oakland, Toronto, the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and LA Dodgers, must pay a US$2,500 fine, serve two years of probation and perform 250 hours of community service.


Lance Armstrong owes $10M in fraud dispute

Lance Armstrong 

Fallen sports hero Lance Armstrong must pay his former promotions company US$10 million for lying about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Dallas-based SCA Promotions sued the discredited cyclist to recoup millions of dollars in bonus money it paid to Armstrong for his career victories, including seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005, following his 2013 admission that he cheated. Armstrong, who has since been stripped of those titles, is also facing a US$100 million fraud suit by the US government. "Perjury must never be profitable," wrote the Texas arbitration panel in its decision.


Magic Kingdom hype was just hocus-pocus

He convinced Texas real estate investors that a new Disney theme park would make their dreams come true. But Thomas Lucas Jr. lied like Pinocchio, duping more than 100 victims out of US$60 million from 2006 to 2010. Convicted on seven counts of wire fraud and one of making false statements to the FBI, Lucas, 35, used fake renderings, maps and site plans of "Frontier Disney" in Dallas-Fort Worth to dupe investors into buying worthless properties surrounding the supposed theme park site. Lucas earned nearly US$450,000 in real estate sales commissions and fees before investors copped on to the outlandish tale in 2010 when the park still had not been built. It’s an unhappy ending for them and Lucas, who is awaiting sentencing and faces up to 20 years in jail.


Pay tax on pilfered funds, says IRS

If she had only given the taxman its share of the money she stole, Rebecca Hoff could have avoided a 15-month prison sentence. Between 2004 and 2010, the 63-year-old Michigan-based accounts payable manager embezzled US$1.1 million from her employer, T.A. Solberg Co., owner of a Wisconsin chain of grocery stores. While the company did not press charges against Hoff for the theft, the IRS took her to court for tax avoidance, alleging she should have declared the stash as earnings and paid more than US$302,000 in additional income tax. She pleaded guilty to the tax charges in December.