Duly Noted

 61st District cracks down on insurance verification fraud

The 61st District Court of Grand Rapids has recently implemented an initiative to crack down on insurance coverage verification fraud. Fraud occurs by obtaining valid insurance after a “no proof of insurance” traffic citation is issued, providing verification when the policy has lapsed, and misrepresenting coverage by tampering with documents. 

A person has the opportunity to have fines and costs waived [MCL 257.328(3)] upon verification of valid insurance coverage at the time of the violation [MCL 257.907(15), MCL 257.328(3)]. If insurance is obtained after that, the person does not qualify.
If a person appears at the 61st District Court with the insurance coverage verification, fines and costs are waived and a $25 fee is assessed [MCL 257.328(3)(c)]. The person completes an attestation form certifying s/he had valid coverage at the time of the citation. 

The 61st District Court later verifies coverage with the insurance company. If the person did not have valid insurance at the time of the violation then the original fees/costs of $150 are reinstated and the person is notified. In some cases the incident is reported to the Grand Rapids Police Department for knowingly providing false information, a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both [MCL 257.328(6)].
In a one day audit by the Secretary of State on July 31, 2013, 16.1% of paper insurance cards submitted to Secretary of State Offices in Michigan were invalid. Since implementation of the 61st District Court initiative in Feb. 2014, of the 279 policies that have been checked, approximately 10% did not have valid insurance at the time of the citation. Some of those cases have been referred for prosecution; for the others the court reinstated the original $150 charge — about $3,500 added back in fines to date.

Company owner charged with MIOSHA violation in employee’s death

Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Criminal Division has filed felony charges against the president and owner of Black River Builders LLC, Joe Novak of Holland. He was charged with one count of Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) Violation Causing Death in the death of 38-year-old Brian Tarachanowicz on July 2, 2012.  
Said Schuette, “When tragedy strikes and a life is lost over carelessness in the workplace, we will hold employers accountable.”

Tarachanowicz fell through an identified weak spot in an old roof deck while removing it. He was not wearing safety equipment, nor were other employees, MIOSHA investigations showed. There were no daily inspections. Black River had been cited before.

The felony charge carries a one year maximum penalty.