Bamboozled for $2 Million, Insurer Says
LAS VEGAS (CN) - A Nevada man lied about representing a tribe to con a life insurance company into issuing more than 1,000 policies to which his trust fund was the beneficiary, the insurer claims in court.
5Star Life Insurance Company sued William R. Lenhard II and his ZWG Trust, on Friday in Federal Court.
The insurer claims that Lenhard, through his agents, approached it in 2012, claiming to represent the "Tribal Trust First Nations Government," which in turn represented Native American tribes in Montana and Alberta, Canada.
"Based on these and other representations, 5Star eventually issued 1,097 insurance policies (the 'policies') for the ZWG Trust (the 'trust') respecting the lives of purported individual tribal members," the complaint states.
It continues: "In reality, the project was a fraudulent stranger-owned life insurance scheme designed to enrich Lenhard. Neither the trust nor its grantor ever represented the First Nations Tribe. The Trust was not owned by the tribe or its members and it never had employed any individual insureds."
The insurer claims that insurance broker Brent Spyksma in an April 2012 email told it that "the idea for the project was that the tribe would establish a trust, which would be the owner, payor and beneficiary of life insurance policies taken out by individual tribal members. The trust would control the funds on behalf of the tribe."
However, 5Star says, "Lenhard knew these representations were false when they were made on his behalf. In reality, the 'Tribal Trust' entity described by Spyksma never existed and the ZWG Trust - which ultimately owned the policies - had not yet been created."
Spyksma is not a party to the lawsuit.
The ZWG Trust "was an alter ego" of Lenhard's and "had no relation to any tribal government," the insurer claims. It says the project "was not created for humanitarian reasons but rather was a fraudulent scheme to enrich Lenhard."
Money to pay for the life insurance policies came from "third-party investors whom Lenhard had defrauded," 5Star claims. "Lenhard made false statements concerning the purported project to induce them to give Lenhard, the trust, or other alter ego corporate entities of Lenhard money under the false pretense that such money would be an 'investment' in the purchase of policies. In reality, Lenhard intended to use the money for his personal benefit and not repay third parties or provide significant benefits for tribal members."
After underwriting the 1,097 life insurance policies for tribal members with the ZWG Trust listed as owner and beneficiary of the policies, 5Star says, a routine check of policy applicants turned up irregularities, including incorrect birth dates and tribal members saying they never applied for coverage or even heard of 5Star Life Insurance.
Upon further investigation, 5Star says, it learned that the grantor of an initial $2 million in life insurance premiums was a company called QLife that Lenhard created to fund the life insurance scheme.
Due to a lack of insurable interest, 5Star rejected the policy premiums and rescinded coverage in September 2012.
5Star seeks $2 million plus punitive damages for fraud.
It is represented by Abran E. Vigil with Ballard Spahr of Las Vegas.