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FEDERAL COURT Woman sentenced for fraud



Published: Fri, January 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



She was part of a scheme to defraud an insurance company.

COLUMBUS -- A federal judge has ordered a Cambridge woman to surrender to authorities no later than Feb. 28 to begin serving a 57-month prison sentence for her role in a scheme to set up "ghost agents" to collect insurance commissions in eastern Ohio.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost sentenced Debbie K. Lent Thursday to federal prison followed by three years of supervised release and fined her $12,500 in the case.

A federal jury convicted the 51-year-old Lent of Cambridge and a Coshocton County insurance district sales manager, Peter J. Vasilakos, in June on eight counts of mail fraud, one count each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and conspiracy to launder money. All of the charges are felonies.

The jury also convicted Coshocton resident Steven L. Baker, 55, on eight felony counts of mail fraud in the case.

'Ghost agents'

According to authorities, Vasilakos, 52, was a district sales manager in southeastern Ohio for a Chicago-based insurance company. Lent was his business partner and Baker kept the books, authorities said. The U.S. Attorney's office did not identify which company.

In 1998, Vasilakos and the others set up a scheme to keep what authorities referred to as "ghost agents" on the rolls as active sales agents even though they were no longer selling policies for the company.

Vasilakos, Lent and Baker created false reports, forged documents and signatures, and mailed them to the insurance company in Chicago, authorities said.

By reporting these "ghost agents," the conspirators continued to receive the commission checks, overrides, renewals and bonuses issued by the company as the result of the reported sales activity, authorities said.

Lent was released on recognizance bond until her expected surrender to federal authorities next month, said Fred Alverson, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Gregory G. Lockhart.

Vasilakos and Baker remain free on recognizance bonds pending their scheduled March 3 sentencings, Alverson said.

Lent couldn't immediately be reached to comment Thursday.




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