A former Kennewick insurance agent is doing community service for changing his own homeowner’s policy, including lowering the deductible, just hours after a broken water pipe damaged his new house.
Philip J. Snider, 30, had listed his wife as the sole occupant of the home they were buying in West Richland.
But when he went into his office the evening of the extensive water damage, Snider added himself as an occupant on the policy so he could file a $37,000 claim the next day.
An Allstate software program designed to check for patterns and discrepancies caught the 2013 fraud after Snider filed the loss report on his Polo Greens Avenue home.
That led to his firing by business owner Terry L. Johnson, a lengthy investigation by the Washington state Office of Insurance Commissioner and the eventual revocation of Snider’s insurance license.
Earlier this summer, Snider was charged in Benton County Superior Court with second-degree theft, a felony. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Matt Thomas.
In August, Snider pleaded guilty to a reduced gross misdemeanor charge of misrepresentation in application for insurance.
“I willfully failed to reveal changes to my insurer that I made to my homeowner’s insurance policy, relative to an application for insurance, after filing a claim with my insurer,” Snider wrote in his plea statement.
He was sentenced to 10 days with 354 days suspended. The 10 days were converted to 80 hours of community service.
Snider is on supervision for two years, which means if he violates the conditions or commits another crime he can be ordered to serve the rest of his sentence.
A news release from Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said insurance fraud costs the average family $400 to $700 a year in increased premiums.
Snider was first licensed with the state in June 2008 as an agent for life, disability, property and casualty insurance.
Court documents show he had been with Terry L. Johnson Insurance, which is affiliated with Allstate, when he wrote the personal homeowner’s policy with a $5,000 deductible.
Snider told investigators he listed his wife as the sole occupant because “it improved the rates based on her having a better insurance score,” documents said.
When asked if it was technically improper not to list the home’s full occupants, he said it was common practice to “do what’s right for the customer.”
They took possession of the home on Feb. 15, 2013, and immediately started moving in their belongings while also making renovations like removing carpet and tile.
Snider claimed that three days later, his wife damaged a water line in the kitchen as she tried to remove a section of cupboard. The kitchen and basement were flooded.
He went into the office after business hours, accessed the document upload system, and added himself to the original policy, added $33,500 in building codes coverage and reduced the deductible from $5,000 to $500, court documents said.
After filing the claim on Feb. 19, 2013, the Sniders received seven payments totaling $37,152 based on a $500 deductible amount.
The Insurance Commissioner’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office said Snider was not entitled to the first payment of $4,500 from Allstate because he fraudulently modified the deductible.
Johnson worked with the Insurance Commissioner’s Special Investigations Unit, giving them copies of the Snider’s original and amended policy and other documentation.
Snider described his actions in accessing the office computer after hours as “arrogance of misplaced entitlement,” and said he saw himself as a customer at that moment and not the agent.
Consumers can report suspected insurance fraud on the Insurance Commissioner’s website.