Jennifer Summerlott of Coral Springs, Florida was arrested on February 27 for allegedly defrauding her employer, Fairway Insurance Group, of more than $1 million. She reportedly stole the money, using what state insurance fraud investigators are calling “an elaborate scheme,” by rerouting company funds using bogus insurance invoices to her personal bank account.
Summerlott, 36, faces charges for four first-degree felonies: organized scheme to defraud, criminal use of a personal ID, diverting insurance trust funds, and grand theft. If convicted. Summerlott faces up to 30 years in Florida State Prison. She is being held at Broward County Jail in lieu of a $300,000 bond. Court records show Summerlott is seeking a lower bond. The press did not say if she has hired an attorney.
According to the arrest report, Summerlott worked as an accounts payable and commercial lines manager at Fort Lauderdale-based Fairway Insurance Group for nine years. She reportedly started defrauding the company from 2010 to 2015 by fabricating and submitting dozens of fake electronic invoices from various insurance companies that did business with Fairway. After submitting the invoices, she allegedly prepared company checks to pay for them and then funneled those payments to a personal bank account.
Additionally, Florida’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) believes Summerlott used funds received from third-party financing companies to cover the cost of insurance premiums. She used those payments to cover up Fairway’s massive financial losses. DIFS says she allegedly refinanced 40 insurance policies her employer’s clients had previously paid in full. The division began the investigation in 2015 after other Fairway employees noticed financial irregularities.
Jeff Atwater, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal, told the press that Summerlott defrauded Fairway of $1,189,654 through her “fake invoice scheme.” Atwater oversees DIFS and his priorities include fighting financial fraud and financial waste in government.
Sources say Fairway Insurance Group declined to comment on the case. It appears as though Summerlott was the only Fairway employee involved in the alleged fraud. It is not publicly known what she did with the purportedly stolen funds or whether she will be able to return it to her former employer. It is also unclear whether her assets have been put on hold pending the outcome of the case.
Knowingly defrauding a financial institution is commonly prosecuted as a federal offense, and prosecutors can charge a person with multiple counts of fraud for every instance of alleged criminal conduct. Because one count of bank fraud carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison, a criminal defense lawyer has to closely scrutinize every piece of evidence prosecutors admit at trial.
In Florida, schemes to defraud are categorized as crimes of communications fraud and organized fraud. Organized fraud is punished more severely than communications fraud, especially if the accused obtains property pursuant to a scheme to defraud.
The penalties for organized fraud are based on the aggregate value of property obtained by the scheme. Organized fraud of over $50,000 is classified as a first degree felony and can result in 30 years in prison andor probation as well as fines of up to $10,000.