Ted Lilly: What’s Fraud Got to Do with It?

We should start with the usual boiler-plate. The charges of insurance fraud against Ted Lilly are alleged.

Ted LillyWhat is not alleged is that over his 15 seasons in the MLB, pitcher Ted Lilly made around $80 million. That is, as a friend of mine likes to say, a nice chunk of change. What he has done with the $80 million is none of my business.

What is also not alleged is that last year Lilly bought a $200,000 RV. That amount of money to pay for a RV kind of takes my breath away, but I suppose he could afford to do it. Shortly after, March 19, 2014, while backing up this behemoth, the RV collided with something and sustained about $4,600 in damages. We know this because that is the date he showed up at an auto body shop and got an estimate.

Now the story takes a bizarre twist. According to baseball writer Mike Axisa in an article entitled: “Ted Lilly charged with three counts of felony insurance fraud,” the pitcher decided to throw a knuckle-ball:

“The (California Department of Insurance)’s investigation showed Lilly sustained damage in a collision while backing up the vehicle and sought an estimate from a body shop on March 19, Kincaid [Department of Insurance spokesperson] said. The estimate was $4,600. Then Lilly bought insurance from Progressive on March 24 and claimed the damage on March 28, Kincaid said.”

The January 24, 2015 article continued:

“Lilly was arrested as part of an agency sweep in which warrants were served in 22 counties. The sting targeted those who were uninsured, underinsured or acquired insurance after damage occurred. If convicted, Lilly could face up to five years in prison.”

The charges against Lilly include the following:

“The first is filing a false insurance claim. The second one is a false statement in support of a claim and the third one has to do with failing to disclose a material fact in connection with an insurance claim.”

The Ethical Question

Why would an athlete who made all of those millions of dollars and who was able to buy an RV more expensive than many homes or condos, allegedly file a false claim for $4,600?

To be fair, I would like to point out that Lilly and his lawyer have denied everything. It is nothing less than what we would expect them to do. The allegations are false according to Lilly’s law firm.

To also be fair, though insurance company stories often make us cringe, raise our blood pressure and cause us to look for something to throw at the wall, insurance companies are not stupid. Auto body shops are not stupid, and California’s Department of Insurance investigators aren’t so stupid either.

When you go into a legitimate auto body shop and file a claim, the claim is on record and everyone who matters can see it. Lilly can allegedly dance around this mound and rub some grease into the baseball if he would like, but it’s not going to change the fact that all records and actions show that he first sustained the damage to his RV, then bought insurance and then filed a claim. You can’t do that; not in California or South Carolina or anywhere.

Why would anyone commit insurance fraud? Because they think they have the opportunity to cheat the system. They think they can pull a fast one and possibly, they feel they are above the law and the little people, the poor souls who sit behind desks at the insurance company or who break their backs repairing $200,000 RV’s, don’t matter all that much.

The pattern of this arrogance is repeated over and over again in countless situations involving business, healthcare, government, entertainment and sports hundreds if not thousands of times each month. The “Why” of it all is simply because Lilly allegedly thought he could put one over on the little people.

Never works

Gifted athletes, team owners, coaches and others, worth many millions of dollars, often have the ethical flaw that tells them that money can buy everything. If I had tens of millions of dollars in the bank, on the surface I might feel that I am immune from prosecution and from judgment as well.

But we know better. You cannot buy a reputation. You cannot buy fan support. You cannot buy a legacy. Let me put it another way: Donald Sterling, Tiger Woods, Hope Solo, Pete Rose, Adrian Peterson, Bill Belichick, Tanya Harding, Michael Vick, Jim Irsay, Ray Rice, Joe Paterno and on and on. Failing to act ethically may not diminish a person’s wealth or even a core group of diehard fans, but it will affect a man or woman’s legacy.

I don’t know if Ted Lilly is innocent or guilty, but I do know he has put himself in a potentially unethical situation which has already deteriorated his reputation. It could get worse. For a lousy $4,600, it was just not worth it.








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