Widow under house arrest for try at insurance fraud; After husband died, she applied for coverage


A Pasadena widow was placed on house arrest yesterday for taking out mortgage life insurance in her dead husband's name and then trying to collect on it.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck ordered four months of house arrest followed by two years' probation with 100 hours of community service --despite his concern that Elizabeth Ann Herrmann, 43, seemed neither remorseful nor appreciative of how serious the crime was.

"I'm doing it more for your 6-year-old daughter, who somebody has to take care of," Manck said. Herrmann applied for the insurance in November 1996, in the name of her husband George, who died in April 1995.

Then she filed a false claim for death benefits in September 1998, doctoring his death certificate to say he died that year.

Mortgage insurance pays off a mortgage after the death of the policyholder.

Assistant Attorney General Nathan Braverman and defense counsel David Fischer later said they felt the sentence was appropriate.

Braverman had asked for up to six months' jail time, partly to deter her and others from white-collar crime.

Fischer, who had hoped for no incarceration, said his client acted out of desperation and that she was incapable of the sophisticated wrongdoing generally associated with white-collar theft.

Herrmann cried in court yesterday, saying she attempted the fraud because she was broke, had no family to turn to and feared she and her child would soon be homeless.

Fischer said his client did not work and that her husband died of cancer when their child was 7 months old.

Despite pleading guilty in January to attempted theft and filing a false insurance claim, Herrmann later told a pre-sentence investigator that she thought she was answering a mail solicitation for insurance in her own name. Braverman said that was unlikely, given the forged death certificate, and Manck agreed.

The crimes carry a maximum penalty of 15 years, and Manck ordered a suspended sentence of five years. A third, related count was dropped yesterday.

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