Crime & Courts

Last guilty plea in Columbia insurance scam

A New Jersey man pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in a scheme that stole $487,346 from a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.

Evidence in the case established that Garry Lewis Walker, 47, of Patterson, New Jersey, was one of seven co-conspirators who defrauded Companion Property & Casualty Insurance, the subsidiary.

Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald said several Blue Cross Blue Shield employees changed federal tax identification numbers of legitimate BCBS health care providers to individuals who were not health care providers, including Walker.

Walker and others then would receive workers’ compensation checks in the mail, cash those checks at banks using bogus bank accounts they established and then distribute the proceeds among the seven charged participants, McDonald said.

The co-conspirators cashed 116 phony checks and made off with $487,346.98, McDonald said.

Walker is the last of six co-conspirators to plead guilty. The seventh charged co-conspirator died during an unrelated domestic dispute.

The maximum penalty Walker can get is a $250,000 fine and prison for 20 years.

The fraud was discovered by the Special Investigations Unit of BCBS, along with CPCI, who then referred the matter to FBI agents.

Assistant United States Attorney Winston D. Holliday, Jr., of the Columbia office handled the case.

Judge Joe Anderson accepted the plea.

John Monk