Cintia Pedone and Dawnetta Underwood arrested: D.C., Atlanta firefighters, cops targeted in insurance scam
Two Maryland women were arrested in Atlanta accused of trying to steal law enforcement officers' identities. And the alleged plot might stretch all the way back to D.C. and Arlington.
The women allegedly walked into police precincts around Atlanta, made presentations about insurance benefit packages to groups of officers and walked out with applications filled with personal information in a brazen fraud plot, police said Monday.
Cintia Ximena Pedone-Allou, 30, and Dawnetta Patrice Underwood, 23, both of Maryland, were arrested Friday after having visited multiple police precincts in Atlanta over the previous several days, police said.
But Arlington police tell ABC7 News that they checked out the women and they are, in fact, contract workers with Aflac. Police say one officer signed up and has received his insurance policy. And they say, there have been no signs of identity theft by the women.
At least 39 officers and other employees filled out applications in Atlanta, and police believe the women may have also targeted transit police and fire stations.
Sources say Pedone met with Arlington, Va. police officers selling supplemental insurance from a company that works with Aflac at least three times.
According to the D.C. Firefighters Association, the women tried to pull off the same scheme in D.C. Recently, they visited several fire stations in the area trying to sell insurance policies.
"Obviously, it's pretty bold to go into a police precinct and target police officers for this," Atlanta Sgt. Paul Cooper said Monday. "Anybody can be fooled, and this is a good example. If they can get us, they can get anybody."
A man who said he was the women's supervisor would call the precinct and ask for the watch commander's name, Cooper said. The man would then call that watch commander and ask if his benefits representatives were there yet.
When the women arrived, they would give the desk officer the watch commander's name and say the commander was expecting them. They would say they were from Employee Benefits and were there to sign people up for enhanced Aflac benefit packages and supplemental insurance and were then allowed to address officers gathered for roll call at the beginning of a shift.
"It was pretty detailed," Cooper said of the scheme, "detailed enough to convince our officers it was legitimate."
They targeted evening and early morning shifts, which start at 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively, and police believe that may have been a strategy to avoid hours when human resources staff would have been available if officers or other employees had questions.
The scheme was uncovered when one lieutenant became suspicious because he said the presentation didn't feel like a normal visit from Aflac, which provides the department's insurance.
The lieutenant kicked the women out of his precinct and contacted the personnel department. Personnel staff called Aflac and found that Aflac had no record of a relationship with the women or Employee Benefits, the Maryland-based company they said they worked for.
The women had left business cards and police reached a man who claimed to be their supervisor, who gave police the women's cell phone numbers. Police arrested both women and recovered 39 applications. When questioned, the women were evasive and gave inconsistent and conflicting answers, police said.
It's not entirely clear what the women planned to do with the information they gathered, Cooper said. He said it could be commission fraud, or they could be trying to submit false claims once they established policies or it could just be simple identity theft, he said. In any case, they misrepresented themselves and were not authorized to solicit that information from department employees, he said.
Police have contacted the state of Maryland and are trying to determine the status of the company Employee Benefits, which the women said was an independent insurance company.
Police are also working to get information on the man who claimed to be the women's supervisor and to possibly file charges against him as well.
The women were being held in the Fulton County jail Monday on $55,000 bond each, according to jail records. Police did not know whether they had lawyers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.