Public Safety

Couple Charged With Scamming Hundreds of Seniors

A fake insurance agent and his wife have been charged for their roles in bilking nearly $2 million out of hundreds of local senior citizens, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Michael Woodward, 50, and his wife, Melissa Woodward, 47, were arrested at their home in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 10 and extradited to San Diego to face charges. Both were arraigned Friday on felony counts including burglary, grand theft, theft from an elder, tax evasion and other charges.  They face up to 16 years in local prison if convicted.

“The defendants in this case were ruthless and heartless in the way they targeted the elderly and sold them fake insurance policies,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. “I’m proud of the work our Insurance Fraud Unit is to bring justice to these victims and other senior citizens who became victims of elder abuse in the community. We’re also encouraging anyone who bought an in-home service agreement from these defendants to come forward.”

For nearly a decade, the Woodwards swindled 238 San Diego seniors out of more than $1.9 million in premiums. They would target elderly senior citizens at their homes telling them that for a prepaid annual fee, the victim could get an unlimited amount of non-medical services such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, toileting, dressing, laundry and shopping. To receive services, Michael Woodward told the victims, they should call him and provide a doctor’s note.

The defendants in this case were ruthless and heartless.
-Bonnie Dumanis, District Attorney

In reality, Woodward and his wife were the only employees of the company and were not able to provide the in-home services he offered. The most he did included paying a third party to provide the requested services, or reimbursing seniors for the expense of acquiring services on their own.

The investigation involved multiple local, state and federal agencies.

“The extent to which the Woodwards went to rip-off vulnerable seniors and attempt to hide their crime is shocking,” said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Inexpensive claims, such as requests for housecleaning, were often paid, but when victims made claims that were more expensive, Woodward would not return phone calls and would reject the claim. He also routinely returned to victims’ homes to collect additional premiums, well beyond the original cost he quoted for the plan.

The Woodward’s fraudulent activities in San Diego follow similar actions in other states including Washington, Oregon, Minnesota and Texas. In all, he bilked victims out nearly $6 million across the nation. When dealing with senior citizens, he often used false names such as Mike Woods or Mike Smith, making it difficult to research his past.

In keeping senior citizens safe, the key to prevention is knowledge and awareness. In addition to the Insurance Fraud Division, which is handling this case, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office has an Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit, which handles more than 200 felony cases per year.

Information on how protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming victims of elder abuse can be found on the District Attorney’s public website at SafeSeniorsSanDiego.com