The Case of the Empty Coffin

May 21, 2001

The Criminal Investigations Branch Investigators of the California Department of Insurance (CDI) announced a successful conclusion to a complicated investigation after a father and daughter Raul Eduardo Pero, aka Paul Terry Reed, 58, and his daughter, Liza Monique Pero, 25, pled guilty to 10 counts of felony insurance fraud. Sentencing is scheduled for June 28. A third suspect, Gloria Alcaraz, requested a preliminary hearing.

According to CDI investigators, from Jan. 9, 1995, to March 1, 1997, Raul Pero obtained life insurance policies totaling $3,150,000 from seven different companies. Pero did not accept a policy through First Colony Life for $700,000 and canceled a policy issued by Zurich Kemper Life valued at $500,000. Excluding those two policies, Pero had $1,950,000 worth of life insurance policies from six different companies. He listed his daughters, Shannon and Liza Pero; nephew Joseph Kreitinger; and girlfriend Martha Ibarra as the benefactors of the policies, which were in effect at the time claims were made for death benefits.

An investigation of documents, specifically from West Coast Life Insurance Co., indicated that Raul Pero’s roommate, Gloria Alcaraz, notified the company of Raul Eduardo Pero’s alleged death. The policies from six companies were in effect at the time, and claims were made for death benefits. Alcaraz notified the insurer of Raul Pero’s alleged death prior to the date of death listed on the death certificate, which was submitted after the initial telephone call.

The insurers were in the process of establishing that Raul Pero was actually alive when he called the companies and said the claims had been submitted in error. The death certificate from Santiago, Chile, indicated that Pero had died in 1997. Furthermore, it was reported to the insurance companies that Raul Pero had died of natural causes. However, the death certificate indicated that he had died of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted with the task of obtaining the Chilean authorities’ cooperation in exhuming Raul Pero’s alleged gravesite. The coffin was found not to contain a corpse. None of the insurance companies paid any benefits to the claimants.

Investigators also discovered that throughout the claim process, the insurers were not aware of the fact that Raul Eduardo Pero had an alias of Paul Terry Reed, the name of an 18-year-old male who had died on April 20, 1968, in an auto accident. Raul Pero, his daughters and nephew corresponded with the insurance companies during the claim process.

Raul Pero also utilized the alias of Paul Reed to correspond with the companies during this period. Raul Pero allegedly told the insurers’ representatives that he was Raul Pero’s stepbrother. It was also established that Raul Pero applied for a U.S. passport under the name Paul Terry Reed, allegedly using the deceased man’s birth certificate and social security number.

The investigation found that a personal property claim Raul Pero submitted to American Bankers Insurance Company was also suspicious. Raul Pero allegedly claimed his laptop computer had been stolen at Los Angeles International Airport.

American Bankers provided Raul Pero with a $3,242 laptop computer to replace the one he claimed was stolen at the airport. During the execution of a search warrant at Monique Pero’s residence, the allegedly stolen computer, which Raul Pero had been compensated for, was recovered.

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Insurance Journal West May 21, 2001
May 21, 2001
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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