Food fight: Fake poisoning extorts insurance payouts

Fraudster falsely claims was sickened by spoiled food at restaurants, food stores

2020 Hall of Shame

Jacqueline Masse started a food fight. She lost. Masse was reeled in as the court’s fresh catch-of-the-day on the fraud entrée menu.

The Hampton, N.H. woman trolled restaurants and grocery stores for nearly four years. Masse falsely claimed she or her adult children grew seriously sick from tainted food they’d eaten or bought there.

She demanded nearly $400,000 from the food firms and their insurers to pay for mock medical bills and pretend pain they supposedly endured. 

Masse’s organic menu of free-range fraud: A well-seasoned gastric grift of false food claims and culinary crime — 12 sickness scams to force insurance payouts from innocent food purveyors. Here’s how her inedible extortion took off.

Claimed fake sicknesses

Masse mailed letters to the restaurants, such as grocery stores and other food firms. Often impersonating her adult kids, she demanded the firms pay the letter writer’s claimed medical expenses. The so-called victims didn’t have health coverage, the letters insisted. So, sadly they had to pay the large bills out of pocket or even borrow money, Masse wrote. 

She also demanded hefty payouts for pain and suffering that she or her unknowing children endured from eating the spoiled food. She forged hospital medical records to back up the insurance claims.  

Masse’s children didn’t know their mother had stolen their identities in the get-rich insurance plot. 

Stole records from law firm

Masse was an office manager and paralegal at a local law firm. So she also stole client medical files and checks, then altered them to appear the documents were hers or her children’s. 

Masse even forged bank account records and credit card receipts to support the illusion that she dined at a given restaurant or bought spoiled food from a store.

Insurers paid out $206,000 of the nearly $400,000 that Masse demanded. They mailed settlement checks to her home in Hampton, or the homes of her unknowing children. Masse had them deposit the checks into their personal bank accounts then write her a check for the full amount. 

Masse was handed 18 months in state prison — thanks to persistent prosecutors, and a thorough investigation by the New Hampshire insurance department. Masse also must repay the $206,000 of insurance money. 

“Insurance fraud has a serious impact on hard-working individuals and families, as it drives up their insurance premiums and makes in more-difficult to collect on legitimate claims,” said U.S. Attorney Scott Murray. “The conduct in this case was carefully planned and persistent.”

In other words, never start a food fight unless you can finish it.