Filipina imprisoned for role in $75,000 insurance scam

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A convicted insurance fraudster has been jailed for a year, in a case that saw three Filipino nationals charged with deceptively obtaining more than $75,000 from BF&M.

As family looked on, a tearful Camille Canillas Orteza, dubbed the mastermind of the scheme by prosecutors, told Magistrates’ Court she wished she could turn back time on her offences.

Another defendant, Rhysan Calingasan, 32, of Happy Valley Road, Pembroke, described as an unwitting accomplice, received a conditional discharge.

A third, 41-year-old Ferdinand Malabanan, also of Happy Valley Road, has already been deported — after paying back the $1,749 he collected as part of the fraud.

Orteza, of Scott’s Hill Road, Sandys, filed false medical claims to the insurer for “medical treatment carried out over a number of months and a number of transactions”, according to Crown counsel Larissa Burgess.

“She used names of family members along with Calingasan, her stepfather as well as her brother, in order to make false representation that these services were given, and then received the funds in return,” Ms Burgess told the court. “Calingasan comes into the picture whereby Orteza was somewhat of a Robin Hood, who felt she could help with his medical bills.”

Orteza, currently listed as a visitor to the Island, managed to obtain $32,709 from BF&M but was attempting to acquire a further $36,614.

Calingasan, who is employed, got $4,638, but has handed over $3,000 via his lawyer Charles Richardson, and must pay back the rest by the end of next month.

His employers, Marshall’s Maintenance, described him as a model worker who has been struggling to pay his three-year-old daughter’s medical bills back home in the Philippines.

Calling Orteza an “agent provocateur”, Mr Richardson said it was unlikely that his client would have engaged in the scheme if he had not been approached by the 25-year-old.

Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo gave Calingasan a six-month conditional discharge, provided that he repay the money by February 28.

Orteza’s lawyer Shade Subair did not dispute her client had played “a major role” and initiated the scheme.

“Just for the court’s background, it’s important to note the way it started,” Ms Subair said. “Ms Orteza was quite sincerely assisting another person in obtaining insurance.”

Noting the apparent ease in which insurance payments could be acquired, Orteza believed she could “quite easily obtain funds”.

The prosecution likened Orteza’s case to that of Sri Lankan accountant Chadima Gangula Arachchige, jailed last year for 16 months after dishonestly obtaining more than $76,000 for false claims to BF&M.

Ms Subair pointed out that her client had cooperated with police, whereas Arachchige had tried to flee the Island.

Orteza has a lengthy history in Bermuda, having travelled here because her mother was a resident, and attending CedarBridge Academy and the Bermuda College.

Calling her client “an emotionally weak person”, Ms Subair said Orteza lacked parental support and has contemplated suicide as a result of getting caught.

Since she is likely to be deported, going home from the Island would form “a stinging part of her punishment”, Ms Subair added, to which Mr Tokunbo quipped: “Bermuda is a land of opportunity.”

Asking for a non-custodial or suspended sentence, Ms Subair told the court: “When one steals from a big corporation, it is very easy to fall into the misguided notion that it is not hurting anybody.”

Invited to address the court, Orteza said: “I know I made a mistake. My poor judgment clearly hurt my family and my friends. If there is anything I could do to alter the situation, if I could turn back the hand of time, I would not do the same thing.”

Mr Tokunbo responded that he would take into account her early guilty plea, and the fact that she had been forthright with police.

“I can’t overlook the fact that this was a scheme that you authorised and operated and benefited from, which caused injury to a number of people,” he said. “I have accepted you’re remorseful, and you took full responsibility for your actions.That means that you have to bear the punishment that comes with the crime.”

Orteza was jailed nine months for the money she attempted to acquire, plus one year for the funds she obtained, with both sentences to run concurrently.

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Published Jan 17, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 17, 2013 at 8:15 am)

Filipina imprisoned for role in $75,000 insurance scam

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