Monday, January 04, 2016

Mrs Rountree, Liar

Welcome back to 2016, Dear Reader, whether it be a happy one or not. For the record, and probably somewhat unsurprisingly to you, my New Year's Eve turned out to be a bit of a downer.

Consistency is king, as they say.

But we're not here to hear maudlin tales of my cruelly dashed hopes and dreams, no. Well, not today at any rate.

Instead, I have the curious case of Mrs Rountree (not her real name), an unashamed trickster and would-be criminal mastermind. If only she understood that a clue of what I do lies in my title: investigator. You know, like looking into stuff and shit?

It all started a few months ago with the arrival of a claims investigation file concerning a single vehicle accident, at that time driven by Mrs Rountree. In of itself, the details of the accident (such as they were) did not trigger any particular red flags. However, several months earlier an anonymous tip was received stating that if a claim came in regarding that particular vehicle, which had only recently been purchased, it was probably bogus.

At the time of the allegation the vehicle was uninsured. However, a month later Mrs Rountree took out a policy and then made a claim a month after that. 

The file had initially been handled by another investigator as Mrs Rountree had been residing in another city. After making an arrangement to meet to interview her, the investigator was stood up and was subsequently unable to make contact with Mrs Rountree as she did not return his calls or messages.

This line of behaviour from her features again later.

Two months later an aggrieved Mrs Rountree contacts the insurer to enquire as to the progress on her claim. She is informed that the claim had been declined due to non-co-operation from her as she had not attended the interview, nor responded to attempts to reschedule. Mrs Rountree frostily informs them that she had been in hospital and was recovering from a stroke. She now resided in a rural location in another part of the country but was amenable to speaking with an investigator.

And thus it fell upon me.

So I contacted Mrs Rountree and we set up a time to meet. At that time I had been traveling weekly to visit my father and Mrs Rountree now lived a slight detour away off my usual route.

I met her at her new place of residence, where she came out to meet me hobbling precariously on a pair of crutches. I also noted that she spoke with a pronounced lisp - yet there had been no evidence of any speech impediment when I had communicated over the phone with her.

That was my first uncharitable thought towards her.

I proceeded with the formal interview and asked the usual must-ask questions regarding the accident. The accident itself was rather straightforward, Mrs Rountree had reversed into an unseen vehicle that was parked behind her. She had been parked off-street at the start of a walking track, not far from where she was currently living. In fact, her mother resided on the same road, just after the turnoff from the highway. The vehicle she drove into had not been there when she arrived and she did not see it upon her return after dark.

It all sounded plausible enough. However, when I finished the interview I drove to the alleged accident location and could not find anywhere matching the description provided by Mrs Rountree. In fact, I strongly suspected that Mrs Rountree had probably not driven further up the road than her mother's house.

That was my second uncharitable thought.

I continued on with my trip to see my father which, coincidentally, was in the same city as where Mrs Rountree had previously lived. While there, I made some enquiries with her former neighbours as I was seeking to establish a solid timeline between her obtaining the vehicle, and the accident.

As luck would have it, the first neighbour spoken to was also Mrs Rountree's former employer. They did not wish to speak on the record as were currently engaged in legal proceedings relating to the termination of Mrs Rountree's employment, but were happy enough to talk about their experiences as long as it was not attributed to them.

The first thing they told me was the failed attempt by Mrs Rountree to claim she had a workplace injury resulting from a fall. Her story was that she slipped while in the storage room but unbeknownst to her, there was a CCTV camera that had recorded everything. What the camera showed was Mrs Rountree looking around to ascertain that no-one was watching, then lying herself down carefully on the ground and waiting for someone to come into the room to find her.


The second thing was her 'fall' at home, where the neighbours were awoken in the early hours by the sound of an ambulance next door. Mrs Rountree was carted off to hospital at around 1am, to return at 2pm that same day, whereupon she told them that she had undergone 'emergency keyhole hip replacement surgery' and while under anesthesia had suffered a stroke.

Now I don't wish to sound like a Doubting Thomas but given the state of of our publicly-funded health system it is exceptionally unlikely that hip-replacement surgeries are done the same day, let alone only requiring a 'keyhole' incision. And, furthermore, it also seems highly improbable that a patient, having undergone such a procedure, would be released that same day, some mere 13 hours after admission. Particularly if having also suffered a complication during surgery, such as a stroke.

The circumstances of Mrs Rountree's medical misadventures were of no real direct interest in regards to her accident claim. Well, apart from the matter of the alleged stroke. Not because it played a factor in the accident - it couldn't have as it supposedly occurred several weeks afterwards - but because Mrs Rountree stated to the insurer, several times, that this was the reason she could not comply with their directives to be interviewed. 

However, the news kept getting better. The employers put me onto a former coworker who was more than happy to be interviewed in regards to his material knowledge surrounding the accident. What he stated was that some two weeks after she had purchased the vehicle, Mrs Rountree came to work with the damaged vehicle. She told him that she had reversed into another vehicle when coming home from visiting her sister and, when asked about insurance, said she had none but was going to take out a policy, wait several weeks, then put in a claim.

I strongly suspected the co-worker to be the anonymous informant.

I also made enquiries with several other coworkers and neighbours who also corroborated this timeline of the damage to the vehicle being only several weeks after purchase of the vehicle - which was well before Mrs Rountree took out the policy.

And the very best part was obtaining Mrs Rountree's medical records pertaining to her hospital stay (since she did sign the privacy waiver allowing me to make requests with other parties) which, obviously, confirmed that there was no surgery and no stroke.

Now it fell upon me to contact Mrs Rountree to reinterview her and put these findings to her, allowing her the opportunity to provide an explanation. Sadly, Mrs Rountree did not respond to my calls, texts, voice mail messages, or emails.

Sounding familiar, right?

So once again she was sent a letter of declination from the insurer and this prompted her to contact them, angrily, where it was explained to her that she had to arrange to meet me. Well, supposedly she hung up the phone on them in a fit.

And again, I tried contacting her by all the usual methods. Surprisingly, I did receive a call from her mobile number but it turned out it was a pocket dial. I could hear her children in the background.

So I know my calls were getting through. 

Personally, I hope that the insurer takes further legal action against Mrs Rountree. Not only has she made a fraudulent claim in regards to her vehicle, but she has a clear history of deceit in trying to obtain a pecuniary advantage - whether it be from her former employers, a number of previous landlords (she owed a sum exceeding $10,000 in judgments on unpaid rent or damage to properties), and also out of  her disability claim.    

If I learn of her fate, I shall let you know.  

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