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Employee charged with allegedly stealing $160,000 from insurance company

A 56-year-old man employed by American Family Insurance in the City of Pewaukee has been charged with five counts of business theft, accused of stealing approximately $160,000 while employed as a claims adjuster for the company.

Franklin resident Brian M. Costa was charged on March 13 in Waukesha County Circuit Court with five counts of business theft over $10,000. Oshkosh resident Sharon R. Krause-Cronk, 50, was charged with the same offenses for allegedly cashing the checks for Costa and receiving half of the ill-gained profits.

If found guilty on all counts, Costa and Krause-Cronk could each face up to 50 years in prison, $125,000 in fines, or both.

According to the criminal complaint:

A Waukesha County Sheriff’s deputy was contacted on Dec. 12 by Attorney Beth Boyer-Ryan, assistant general counsel for American Family Insurance. Boyer-Ryan told the deputy that they suspected an employee at the company, Costa, had stolen approximately $160,000 by filing false claims between 1997 and 2012.

Costa was employed at the company’s office located at W236 N1402 Busse Road in the City of Pewaukee. A detective met with Boyer-Ryan at her office in Madison. She told the detective that Costa was fired on Nov. 5, 2012 after the alleged fraud was discovered.

Costa was allegedly able to scam the company by adding Krause-Cronk as a passenger to legitimate vehicle accident claims. He would then allegedly claim that Krause-Cronk was injured in the accident, allowing him to write a check to her to cover the expenses. Krause-Cronk would then allegedly cash the checks, and split the profits with Costa.

Costa allegedly once included his own mother as a ghost passenger in an accident report, writing her a check for over $24,000. That alleged incident of fraud was said to have taken place in 2006, beyond the statutory limitations for prosecution.

Altogether, Boyer-Ryan claimed that Costa allegedly defrauded the company of over $170,000 through false claims, but only five of the 12 claims took place after 2008 and within the statute of limitations.

Costa agreed to speak to the detective regarding the incidents in question. He allegedly told the detective that he stole the money because he was in debt. He said that he met Krause-Cronk sometime between 1990 and 1993, when they were both employed at Mitchell International Airport. He allegedly said he brought the idea of defrauding the company up to Krause-Cronk, who was initially reluctant but eventually agreed.

Krause-Cronk allegedly told the detective that she was not familiar with how Costa obtained the money, but knew it was fraud.

Costa and Krause-Cronk are expected to appear in court on March 25.

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