A Carbondale woman is expected to make her first court appearance today after she was arrested earlier this month for allegedly bilking an insurance customer out of thousands of dollars.
Karen Iuele, 38, faces felony theft and fraud charges stemming from allegations that she repeatedly told a customer of the insurance office she worked for that she needed to make more payments to get a new insurance policy in place. Iuele, who was arrested Oct. 1, allegedly deposited into her own account or cashed $6,384 in checks that the woman gave her.
Aspen police began investigating Iuele on Sept. 28, when the woman told authorities that her insurance premiums were delinquent and that she believed the money she allegedly gave to Iuele never made it to the Celtic Insurance company.
Iuele at the time was working as an administrator for the Michael Sailor Insurance company, according to a police report.
Michael Sailor, owner of the insurance firm who was alerted to the fraud and theft allegations on Sept. 25, suspended and subsequently fired Iuele. He, too, believes he is a victim in the alleged deceit.
“I am a responsible business owner and if one of my employees makes a mistake and if there is a problem, I want to know about it,” he said.
Sailor said he informed the victim on Friday via email that the money taken would be paid back; some already has been paid to the insurance company, he said.
“I have already offered the victim 100 percent of the allegedly stolen money,” he said.
Iuele was helping the alleged victim, who is 49 years old, because the woman’s former insurance firm, American Republic, had canceled all of its Colorado policies during a “transfer of business,” Aspen police Detective Ian MacAyeal wrote in a police report.
“A different company named Celtic Insurance was taking American Republic clients,” MacAyeal’s report says. “Iuele guided [the woman] through the confusing process.”
Iuele allegedly told the woman that Celtic Insurance needed a “retroactive premium payment” to get the new policy in place.
“Iuele told [the woman] Celtic Insurance was threatening to cancel her policy if she didn’t get the money deposited that day, June 14,” the report says. “Iuele told [her] that Celtic Insurance does not accept personal checks” and that the company would only take payment from “secure accounts.”
Iuele told the woman she would need cash to deposit into a “secure account” held by the Sailor Insurance firm and that the funds would then be distributed from this account, MacAyeal wrote.
On June 14, the woman told police that she withdrew $2,289.42 — the amount Celtic Insurance was supposedly requiring for the retroactive premium payment — from her bank and handed it to Iuele.
“Iuele said she would deposit this money into the ‘secure account’ and then cut a check to Celtic Insurance that day,” the police report says. “[The woman] assumed everything was in order.”
On June 26, Iuele called the woman and told her that the retroactive premium payment “didn’t quite cover the full amount and she needed more money,” MacAyeal wrote. “Iuele said Celtic Insurance [was] requesting an additional $442 to complete the coverage.”
Because the woman was vacationing in New York, Iuele allegedly suggested that she wire the money directly into her bank account, after which Iuele would deposit the money into the “secure account” and cut another check to Celtic Insurance. The woman agreed, and Iuele provided her husband’s bank account number, MacAyeal wrote.
On Aug. 13, the woman “received another call from Iuele requesting more money,” the report says. “Iuele told [the woman] Celtic Insurance needed $1,152.70 for an ‘August and September 2012 payment.’”
Iuele again said she needed cash to deposit into the Sailor Insurance “secure account” and that she would then send the payment to the insurance company. The woman told police she made out a cashier’s check for the amount in Iuele’s name; Iuele endorsed the check, MacAyeal wrote.
On Aug. 21, Iuele allegedly called the woman again and said Celtic Insurance was requiring a $2,500 “deductible payment,” that cash was needed so it could be placed in the Sailor “secure account” and that payment would then be sent. The woman made out another cashier’s check in Iuele’s name, and Iuele cashed it three days later, the report says.
On Sept. 24, the woman called Celtic Insurance to inquire about a claim and was informed that her account was delinquent, MacAyeal wrote. The woman owed the company about $1,200, and she went to police.
MacAyeal wrote that he spoke with a Celtic fraud investigator, who said the company was not expecting any money until Aug. 31, when her yearly premium was due. The investigator also said the company had not received any of the purported payments.
MacAyeal spoke with Sailor on Sept. 28. Sailor told the detective that “there is no such thing as a ‘secure account’ held by his office,” the report says. “He also said there is no reason an employee such as Iuele would or should take cash from a customer to make an insurance payment.”
Sailor on Sunday said Iuele’s alleged actions do not reflect how he operates his insurance brokerage firm.
“This is not how we do business,” he said. “We do not take cash or cashier’s checks from customers and never will a client be asked to transfer money to a personal account of an employee of this business.”
Aspen police officer Adam Loudon arrested Iuele on Oct. 1 as she was returning to the insurance office from her lunch break. She is free on a $5,000 bond.