Mark asks me. Did I see that the disease had every single advantage? Today, many survivors compare their experience of the AIDS epidemic to living through a war. Nearly 80 percent of Americans diagnosed with HIV before —as both Mark and Luke were—would die, nearly half a million people. Mark had been signing checks for his ailing brother for months before he died.
Without thinking too much about it, he just kept signing them. But he had put the document out of sight instead.
Holding it in his hand for the first time, he had shuddered. His own imminent death seemed to whisper to him from that piece of paper. At the DMV counter, the clerk barely glanced at Mark. She had probably processed a hundred applications that day. Several weeks later an envelope arrived in the mail from the DMV. He was probably drunk, he told me, settling a bar tab. The booze would have helped with the nerves. But was it really a crime—was it really identity theft—if he had every intention of making good on the monthly payments?
Mark went out four nights a week, traveled when he felt like it. He partied: Alcohol medicated his terror of HIV. Crystal meth kept alive his libido, which was, he says, essential to his sense of who he was, and which his AIDS meds had all but annihilated. All of this was behavior Luke had deplored, but Mark regretted only that it was expensive. A plan was coming into focus. He was always mentally filing away information that could be useful to him. It had a power that he could use. He mailed the forged death certificate to the credit card company and waited.
Like waving a magic wand, Mark thought 1. These were his last years, and he wanted a good life. In March of , Mark fainted while he was cleaning his bathroom. At the hospital, he was diagnosed with viral pneumonia. It was the beginning of the end. A healthy person has up to 1, T cells.
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Full-blown AIDS, with the complete collapse of the immune system, hits when you have fewer than Mark had As often happened with AIDS, his numbers rebounded, just enough to take him out of immediate danger. Dissociative identity disorder is a condition in which a person mitigates trauma by taking refuge in one or more alternate personalities.
Posing as Luke fulfilled a similar purpose for Mark. It made him feel safe, as he repeatedly told me. But in another, more mundane sense, committing identity theft was no different for Mark than waiting tables might have been: He was financing his screenwriting career. Mark and Blackwood who wanted to get into features spent six months furiously rewriting. In a stroke of luck, Blackwood ran into Whoopi Goldberg at the airport and pitched her the movie.
She was won over, and—according to Mark and others who were close to the development process—she wrote a letter, at Blackwood's request, attaching herself to the project, so he could raise money for it. Her representatives declined to comment for this story. The movie collapsed. Mark was devastated.
Death surrounded him, it seemed, and it was closing in. What was the holdup? The script would continue to draw interest, but as time passed too many other movies would make use of similar ideas. By the early 's, Mark Olmsted's screenwriting career seemed to be taking off. He says that Whoopi Goldberg provided this letter as evidence of her interest in one of his scripts.
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But the director attached to the project died less than two months later. He bought new furniture.
Learn when the government can invade your privacy to hunt for evidence of a crime.
It was too much money, too much scrutiny. With a sense of dread, he sent off five new forgeries. He made his tone peremptory and slightly annoyed, as if it were she who had to prove her legitimacy to him. But Mark was practically having a heart attack. They were going to catch him. But she would have seen the seal. She knew. No one had ever questioned its authenticity before. The Corona Cougars were a local youth baseball team. It was evident in her tone of voice that she had barely glanced at the seal, that she wanted to get the death certificate out of her sight as quickly as possible.
They said their goodbyes. If Mark had given up on surviving AIDS, if he had grown recklessly indifferent to his T cell count, he had redirected all of his anxiety to money.
He obsessively watched his balances rise and fall. He was consumed with having enough money to survive—with finding a way to get more whenever he needed it. Money became inseparable from the terms of his illness, and a kind of metaphor for it. He was on the verge of defeating even his own genius for finding ways to support himself. Then he contracted pneumonia again. Desperate to raise money, he drove to a government office in West Hollywood to apply for Social Security as Luke, on the pretense that he was too sick to work.
Behind a plexiglass window, the clerk typed into a computer. He squinted at Mark in confusion. Mark gave him a huge smile. With a few keystrokes, he brought Luke Olmsted back from the dead. A viatical settlement was and is a transaction in which you sell your insurance policy to a third-party financial company.
The company advances you a percentage of your life-insurance payout, to give you money to live on, then collects the full benefit after you die. As a rule, the closer you are to dying, the more money you get. The only way to do that was to stop taking his medication altogether. His doctor would have told him this was suicidal.
Once he resumed taking his meds, his T cells rose again, just barely. Mark had been dying, very slowly, for a decade, his T cells languishing between and His HIV meds had never been all that effective, though admittedly he had never been systematic about taking them.
Partly it was the side effects—unbearable thirst, nightmares, suicidal thoughts, and the destruction of his sex drive. He was also drunk or high much of the time. He was using more and more crystal methamphetamine. Once it was spent, he would need a new source of income. When his meth supplier, an affable, broom-skinny Vietnam vet, offered to get him started as a dealer, Mark jumped at the chance. Luke Olmsted, at left, and his brother Mark in Two years older than Mark, Luke assumed an almost parental bearing as they grew up. Dealing crystal, Mark told me, is its own kind of rush, especially at the beginning.
You build your customer base at light speed. Your income grows exponentially from week to week. If you deliver the product in a timely fashion, rather than making people wait hours for it, you are adored. Capitalism has yet to produce a more instantaneously profitable form of employment.
It was all right to make lots of money illegally, Mark reasoned, if you were generous with it. He helped out struggling artists he knew. He carried rent for three male assistants, street kids, basically, who repaid him with sex. There was Jeff, an ex—flight attendant from Boston whose religious parents had rejected him. Sean, a onetime tennis pro who kept elaborate notes on imaginary plane crashes and believed he could reroute the sewage system of San Francisco using only his mind.
The apartment, on Willoughby Avenue in West Hollywood, was strewn with chaps, harnesses, armbands, cuffs, rope. There was a smell of butane in the air, from the torch used to light the glass meth pipe. Men would come for the crystal and stay for the sex. At least one customer limited his visits because he knew it was just a matter of time before the police came. There was way too much foot traffic up and down the stairs. Then, in , Mark developed cytomegalovirus, a common virus that can be very dangerous in people with lowered immunity.
He had to be hospitalized, and his T cells plummeted to , their lowest level in ten years. His doctor was despairing. Terrified, Mark thought, This is it. There was one last combination of antiviral meds he could try. Briefly sober during his three-week hospitalization, he resolved to finally stick with his antiviral-drug regimen. Within a year, HIV was undetectable in his blood. The good news was that Mark was going to live. That was also the bad news. It was a degree day at the height of drought season in Los Angeles: August 14, The entire apartment shook.
He rushed out of his bedroom, he says, to find his front door smashed open. Six narcotics cops in bulletproof vests were aiming rifles at him. Another held the leash of a drug-sniffing dog that was straining to search the apartment. While the dog went about its work, one of the officers handcuffed Mark, then escorted him onto the landing just outside the apartment.
The officer sized Mark up: white male, 40s, and likely terrified of going to prison. Then, Mark says, the officer made him an offer: Give up three names, and make this all go away. He says the officer pressed him again: You think the other guys will be as loyal to you? The funny thing was, Mark believed he was finally living with dignity now. Even if he was dealing meth, he was paying his bills with cash he had actually earned. His record would be expunged after that. Mark promised the judge that his criminal career was over. Mark was determined to go straight.
Financial Fraud Crime Victims
He embarked on a search for a legitimate job. Because he spoke five languages in varying degrees of proficiency, he thought he might be qualified for a subtitling position he saw on Craigslist. He applied, and the owner of the company scheduled an interview. Mark still dreamed of working in film, even if that meant starting out at the margins. He liked the money, and the high, and the sex, too much. At first, it seemed like the letter had done just that. But at around P. It was a sound he recognized. Search warrant! Open the door! Really, they were making a mistake.
They could check his wallet—he had ID. But the photographs appeared to show the same person. Mark Olmsted was his brother, Mark said quickly. Mark had died on October 25, He had the death certificate in the safe on the shelf above his desk. He gave Price the combination. Price discovered six passports in the safe. Probably both were fakes. Meanwhile, the police dog had begun alerting—to meth in the false bottom of a flower vase, to meth in a desk drawer. They also collected about a dozen prescription bottles issued to Mark Olmsted after his supposed date of death.
At the West Hollywood precinct, he signed the booking paperwork in Luke's name.
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But these would be the last documents Luke Olmsted would ever sign. The cops ran the fingerprints of the man in their custody and confirmed beyond any doubt that he was Mark Olmsted. Detective Price had known all along, as he would later write in his report. Upcoming SlideShare. Like this presentation?
Social Security Takes Fraud Seriously
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Are you sure you want to Yes No. Be the first to like this. No Downloads. Views Total views. Actions Shares. Embeds 0 No embeds. No notes for slide. Glass FullBook 1. Glass FullBook 2. Book details 3. Description this book Sometimes it feels as if the only thing that purchasing insurance actually ensures is that one will eventually have an unpleasant dispute with the insurer over payment on a claim. National Casualty Co. A hyperbolic wag is reputed to have said that E. However, this is not the case in which to find it. Florence Nightingale Nursing Serv.
Enacted to safeguard the interests of employees and their beneficiaries, ERISA has evolved into a shield of immunity that protects health insurers, utilization review providers, and other managed care entities from potential liability for the consequences of their wrongful denial of health benefits. Thus, the practical impact of ERISA in this case is to immunize [insurers] from any potential liability for the 4.
Although the alleged conduct of [the insurance company]. Andrews-Clarke v. Travelers Ins.