(CN) – The 9th Circuit reinstated the conviction of former Miss Montana Christin Didier, who defrauded her homeowner’s insurance to the tune of $123,000 while her mansion was being repaired.
A jury convicted Didier in 2013 of mail fraud and conspiracy for collecting nearly $123,000 from her insurance company – the Chubb Group – while her 110-year-old mansion underwent repairs for wind and fire damage. The former beauty queen told the insurer that she had rented a home for $15,000 a month, but was actually living rent-free in a cabin owned by her family.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Montana overturned the jury’s verdict and granted Didier’s request for acquittal, finding that no rational trier of fact could have found what Didier told her insurance company material to the case. And in an alternative order, the judge granted a conditional new trial.
A three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit reversed both of Molloy’s orders this week, finding that Didier “misrepresented that she had incurred an increase in her living expenses” because her policy required the insurer to pay for reasonable increases in her living expenses due to her mansion’s damage.
“This was ‘capable of influencing’ the carrier’s decision to pay her pursuant to the policy,” the court wrote in an unpublished opinion, citing United States v. Blixt. “Even if the amount of expenses claimed would have been reasonable had Didier actually incurred them, the policy requirement of an ‘increase’ made Didier’s misrepresentations material.”
The panel also reversed the conditional grant of a new trial, noting that Didier hadn’t asked for one.
“A district court may not grant a conditional new trial of its own accord,” the court concluded.
Didier faces up to 25 years in prison.
She placed in the top 15 at the 1997 Miss USA pageant.
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