Woman accused of fraudulently claiming she was dying of leukemia pleads guilty in federal court
Jennifer Eden still has a pulse, despite prior claims she would die of leukemia.
She pleaded guilty Monday to fraud in federal court in Charleston, where it was revealed Eden was caught telling similar lies of being terminally ill and also cashing in, prosecutors said.
Eden, 32, who now lives in Myrtle Beach, was accompanied by a man who kept close to her before and after the proceedings.
“I’m changing my plea to guilty,” Eden told the judge.
Four months ago, Eden pleaded not guilty to counts of mail and wire fraud. In its plea deal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped the wire fraud count.
Eden faces the possibility of prison time and will be required to pay restitution to the victims in an amount that will later be determined by the court.
“It was a pretty sophisticated scheme,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart said.
In 2003, Eden obtained a $1 million life insurance policy from Genworth Life Insurance Co. for a $520 annual premium, court documents show. The owner could receive an early payment for the death benefit if they were expected to live six months or less.
In April 2008, Eden applied to Genworth for the accelerated death benefit, claiming she was dying of acute monoblastic leukemia and had less than six months to live, the indictment stated.
She received approximately $500,000 from Genworth for her claim. Medical records revealed to investigators Eden did not suffer from leukemia and was not terminally ill but submitted fake medical records to support the diagnosis, prosecutors said.
The basis for the mail fraud charge was that Eden sent the application for the accelerated death benefit through a commercial interstate carrier.
The dismissed count against Eden said she fraudulently represented herself as a highly successful financial expert and business woman and persuaded an unidentified victim to invest $100,000 in her company, court records show.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charleston first became aware of Eden’s scheme after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago contacted them about her involvement in an insurance fraud investigation in Illinois, DeHart said in court.
Between 2003 and 2005 Eden sold four separate life insurance policies to Robin Hood Group, a viatical settlement company, DeHart said. Viatical insurance is a market in which the terminally ill can sell life insurance policies before dying, typically receiving 50 percent to 70 percent of the death benefit.
Robin Hood bought about 300 life insurance policies from terminally ill Americans and sold the policies to investors in Asia, DeHart said in court. The company came under scrutiny because the original policy holders continued to live beyond 24 months in a “disproportionate number of cases,” he said, which prevented the payments of the death benefits. The policy buyers filed complaints against the company, prosecutors said.
Eden, who sold Robin Hood four policies for about $1 million, claimed to be terminally ill from advanced leukemia, according to DeHart. He also claimed Eden impersonated a fictitious doctor and discussed her alleged terminal condition with a doctor who had been retained by Robin Hood Group.
During the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago’s investigation of Eden, the FBI subpoenaed bank records and found a check to Eden from Genworth Insurance, DeHart said.
Eden defrauded both companies for $1.5 million between 2003 and 2008, he said.
Eden remains free on bail following Monday’s plea. Her sentencing is expected to take place between 60 and 90 days, prosecutors said. She could go to prison for up to 20 years, pay a $250,000 fine — apart from the restitution she owes — and spend three years under supervised release.
Eden and her attorney James Irvin Jr. refused to comment after the plea.