PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY
Md. Insurance Agent Accused of Defrauding Seniors of $280,000
Friday, June 12, 2009
Martha Cunningham owned a $417,000 home in Prince George's County and held $61,000 in annuities before she met Edward Hanson four years ago. Today, the 79-year-old widow is essentially broke and inundated with debt.
Hanson is accused of swindling Cunningham and a Bowie couple in their 60s out of $280,000, by persuading them to write large checks to him for services he never provided, Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said at a news conference yesterday.
Hanson, 39, of Pikesville, Md., was charged with six counts of mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, theft and exploitation of vulnerable adults. If convicted, he faces up to 90 years in jail.
"These are folks who were victimized innocently," Ivey said, referring to Cunningham and Bobby and Lucille Mackey of Bowie. Ivey promised "tough enforcement" of laws that protect the elderly and others against fraud.
Ivey said the prosecution of Hanson is the first under a state law enacted last year that established a separate category for mortgage fraud and strengthened penalties for convictions.
Efforts to reach Hanson were unsuccessful.
"It's important that citizens know that we take these types of crimes seriously," said Bowie Police Chief Katherine Perez, whose department took the initial complaint. "When people try to scam you, come forward so we can bring about justice."
In addition to the Bowie police, the Secret Service, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the county's economic crime unit took part in the investigation.
Cunningham said she realizes now that her first mistake was trusting Hanson, an insurance agent, who introduced himself over the phone. He later would stop by her house, saying that he had other clients in the area.
When she told Hanson in January 2008 that she was interested in a reverse mortgage on her Bowie home, Hanson said he could handle the paperwork for her. Cunningham needed money, and with her home paid off, considered a reverse mortgage the best way to tap the equity in her home. Cunningham received a $212,000 payout.
Cunningham said she also told Hanson that she was interested in purchasing long-term health insurance. He started asking her for large sums of money, she said, to pay for the policy.
"I don't know how I didn't catch on," said Cunningham, who wrote 21 checks to Hanson in March 2008 for more than $20,000. Three months later, she wrote 10 checks for almost $14,000.
She never received the policy. By the end of the year, Cunningham had given Hanson more than $200,000 from her reverse mortgage funds and additional money from her bank account. She owes about $10,000 more on a Discover card.
Bobby Mackey, 69, said Hanson took about $1,800 from him and his wife, Lucille, 67. He said Hanson told them to write checks for an insurance policy that they never received. "I'm not devastated, but it's just the idea of him pulling such a rotten trick," Mackey said.