Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Monday, February 5, 2001

HOUSTON ATTORNEY PLEADS GUILTY TO INSURANCE FRAUD

Harry Noe to Serve Jail Time for Various Schemes

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and the Harris County District Attorney's office this morning obtained a guilty plea from a Houston attorney who defrauded Progressive Insurance Co. in an attempt to collect on a false automobile theft claim, a third-degree felony.

The attorney, Harry K. Noe II, 72, also pleaded guilty to an unindicted, first-degree felony brought today by Assistant District Attorney Maria McAnulty. This involved a scheme to falsely claim disability and forge physician reports to collect about $300,000. The plea agreement requires him to make restitution to Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. on this amount.

Under the agreement, Noe has agreed to a five-year prison term. However, District Judge Belinda Hill has scheduled sentencing for March 23. The judge also ordered Noe to surrender his passport as a condition of remaining free on bond until the sentencing.

"These are the kinds of cases we are compelled to pursue because they can have such a direct impact on the amount of insurance premiums average citizens have to pay," said Attorney General Cornyn. "No matter your age or your station in life, if you commit this kind of brazen fraud against the state of Texas, you will be brought to justice and made to answer for your crimes."

In the auto insurance fraud scheme, Noe filed a false claim in an attempt to collect about $70,000 from Progressive Insurance Co. on a recreational vehicle he reported as stolen from a Harlingen shopping center in March 1999. Progressive conducted its own investigation and reported its findings to Assistant Attorney General John Peralta, who investigated the bulk of the case.

It was determined that the recreational vehicle had not been stolen, but rather, Noe had temporarily abandoned it at a Bossier City, La., casino. The investigation shows that he assumed telephone identities of a Las Vegas attorney and a public official in order to convince Bossier City casino security officers to watch over the vehicle until he retrieved it. The vehicle was recovered by law enforcement officials three months later, still parked at the casino.

The Attorney General's office investigated and assisted in the prosecution of Noe as part of its grant-funded projects to fight vehicle insurance fraud. The grant is provided through the Automobile Theft Prevention Authority, an appointed board of the Texas Department of Transportation. One dollar is assessed on every Texan's auto insurance policy to fund the authority, which issues the grants.

The second case, one of disability fraud in March 1992, involved Noe's filing of a claim of disability on a triple bypass surgery. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. consequently paid out more than $300,000 in disability benefits based on the claim. Noe had filed bogus forms to the company indicating he had not been able to work or earn an income due to his failure to recover from the operation, when in fact investigators found that Noe had been actively practicing law and earning a substantial income during this period.

Other evidence gathered by investigators revealed that Noe had also manufactured a phony obituary on himself, which appeared in the now-defunct Houston Post on Nov. 6, 1992. The obituary noted that he died in London, England, "after losing a valiant struggle with cancer." In 1994 CitiBank wrote off more than $20,000 of Noe's debt, noting that the accounts were closed because the customer had died. CitiBank documents revealed that the account closing was based on the Post obituary.

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Contact: Mark Heckmann, Tom Kelley or Jane Dees at (512) 463-2050.
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