Four Scranton Area Residents Charged in Connection with $7.5 Million Insurance Fraud “Pyramid Scheme”

HARRISBURG – Agents from the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section have filed criminal charges against four Scranton area residents and three businesses linked to a multi-million dollar fraud and theft scheme in Lackawanna County.

Attorney General Tom Corbett identified the central figures in the alleged financial “pyramid scheme” as Brian James Murray, age 67, of 811Clay Ave., Scranton and 343 Treetop Trail, Buck Hill Falls, along with Christine M. Oliver-Shean, 51, 704 North Irving Road, Scranton.

Corbett said that Murray served as CEO, Chairman and Principle of the bankrupt Murray Insurance Agency, located at 415 Spruce St., Scranton, while Oliver-Shean is the former company President.  Both are charged with a series of crimes, including criminal conspiracy, money laundering, theft, insurance fraud, forgery, participating in a corrupt organization, tampering with evidence, obstructing law enforcement and various tax crimes.

Additionally, Corbett said that criminal charges have been filed against Brian Murray’s wife, Diane D. Murray, age 66, of Scranton, who is accused of theft and conspiracy involving money allegedly diverted from another business to the Murray Insurance Agency, along with filing false corporate tax returns and filing false personal income tax returns.

Also charged is Christine Oliver-Shean’s husband, Timothy G. Shean, age 53, of Scranton, who is accused of conspiracy, tampering with physical evidence and obstructing law enforcement regarding efforts to allegedly hide company records from investigators.

Corbett said that according to an extensive grand jury investigation, the fraud and theft involving Brian Murray and Christine Oliver-Shean totaled more than $7.5 million dollars over the past ten years.  Additionally, Murray and Oliver-Shean allegedly used an offshore business, registered in the British Virgin Islands, to conceal more than $10 million in income and avoid paying Pennsylvania taxes.

“It is interesting to note that the building in Scranton where Murray’s insurance business was headquartered is known as ‘One Pyramid Center,’ because this was a massive illegal pyramid – allegedly stealing millions of dollars from new clients to conceal past thefts and keep the scheme in operation,” Corbett said.

According to the grand jury, the clients victimized by this wide-ranging scheme included the University of Scranton, Marywood University, Loyola College of Maryland, St. Joseph’s University and other educational institutions; Mount Airy Casino Resort; local government agencies like Phoenixville Borough; Moses-Taylor Hospital; the Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium; and other unsuspecting businesses and non-profit groups.

Corbett noted that the charges filed today are related to a broader investigation that initially resulted in July 2010 arrest of Brian Murray, involving the theft of more than $1.3 million in premium payments that were collected by his company.  The criminal activity outlined in the grand jury presentment released today is in addition to those earlier charges against Mr. Murray.

“The losses from large-scale fraud cases such as this one impact everyone who purchases an insurance policy in Pennsylvania, who will face higher premiums and increased costs in the future,” Corbett said. 

Corbett said the Attorney General’s Office has also filed criminal charges against three businesses linked to this alleged pyramid scheme: 

  • The Murray Insurance Agency, 415 Spruce St., Scranton.
  • The Mallow Holding Company, 415 Spruce St., Scranton.
  • Gaffer Insurance Company Limited, incorporated in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

All three businesses have been charged with multiple felony counts, including participating in a corrupt organization, dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity (money laundering), criminal conspiracy, aiding in the consummation of a crime, theft by deception, theft by unlawful taking, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, insurance fraud and forgery. They are also charged with misdemeanor counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, obstructing the administration of law, willfully filing false and fraudulent corporate income tax returns, willfully filing false and fraudulent Pennsylvania personal income tax returns and failure to file corporate tax returns.

The defendants were taken into custody today by agents from the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section preliminarily arraigned in Lackawanna County Central Court before Magisterial District Judge John J. Mercuri.

Brian J. Murray was released on $100,000 bail, with the condition that he remains under house arrest pending his preliminary hearing.

Diane D. Murray was released on $100,000 unsecured bail; Christine Oliver-Shean was released on $10,000 unsecured bail; and Timothy Shean was released on his own recognizance.

A preliminary hearing for all four defendants is scheduled for August 31st, at 9:45 a.m., in Lackawanna County Central Court.

Brian James Murray is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, along with one count each of dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity (money laundering), criminal conspiracy, all first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.

Brian Murray is also charged with one count of forgery, a second-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine, along with five counts of theft by deception, five counts of theft by unlawful taking, five counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, three counts of forgery, one count of insurance fraud and one count of aiding in the consummation of a crime, all third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines. 

Additionally, Brian Murray is charged with misdemeanor counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, obstructing the administration of law, willfully filing false and fraudulent corporate state income tax returns and personal state income tax returns, as well as failure to file corporate state tax returns.

Christine Oliver-Shean is charged with two counts of participating in a corrupt organization, along with one count each of dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity (money laundering), criminal conspiracy, all first-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 fines.
 
Christine Oliver-Shean is also charged with one count of forgery, a second-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine, along with seven counts of theft by deception, seven counts of theft by unlawful taking, seven counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, three counts of forgery, one count of insurance fraud and one count of aiding in the consummation of a crime, all third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

Additionally, Christine Oliver-Shean is charged with misdemeanor counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, obstructing the administration of law, willfully filing false and fraudulent corporate state income tax returns and personal state income tax returns, as well as failure to file corporate state tax returns.

Diane D. Murray is charged with one count each of theft by unlawful taking and criminal conspiracy, both third-degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines, along with misdemeanor counts of willfully filing false and fraudulent corporate state income tax returns and personal state income tax returns.

Timothy G. Shean is charged with one count each of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, obstructing the administration of law and criminal conspiracy, all second-degree misdemeanors which are each punishable by up to two years in prison and $5,000 fines.

The case will be prosecuted in Lackawanna County by Deputy Attorney General Jennifer A. Peterson of the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section.

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