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Bureau, insurance-industry group say their relationship benefits consumers
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), District 15, is issuing a call for reform stemming from allegations of abuse of power on the part of the FBI and a private-sector investigative unit called the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
The alleged misconduct includes charges that the FBI and NICB, working together through an insurance-fraud busting operation called Sudden Impact, engaged in racial profiling to unfairly target minority-owned businesses and professionals.
LULAC officials also contend that the "FBI continues to engage in joint operations with the NICB for the benefit of the insurance industry."
Officials with the FBI and NICB stress that they do not target anyone on the basis of race or ethnic background; rather, they say, their agencies target only suspected criminals in an effort to stem insurance fraud and protect the public. NICB, which is supported by about 1,000 property/casualty insurance companies, is a nonprofit crime-fighting organization that employs an investigative force of some 160 special agents -- most of whom are former law enforcement officials.
Rene Salinas, spokesman for the local office of the FBI, says the allegation that the bureau engages in racial profiling is dead wrong.
"The FBI does not do racial profiling," he says. "LULAC has the right to pursue the matter as far as the law allows, but our position will remain the same: We do not do racial profiling."
Judith Fitzgerald, vice president of government and public affairs for NICB, echoes Salinas' comments.
"I can say unequivocally that we (NICB) do not engage in racial profiling under any circumstances," Fitzgerald says. "We are a crime-fighting organization working in the interest of the insurance industry and the American consumer."
An Operation Sudden Impact insurance fraud case brought against a local Iranian family, the Lampazianies, and their business, The Pain Therapy Clinic, in particular, has drawn the scrutiny of LULAC officials. The Assistant U.S. Attorney handling the litigation, Margaret Embry, was removed from the case in late January of this year after filing a controversial motion in U.S. District Court here. The motion alleged that defense attorneys and Embry's co-counsel engaged in inappropriate behavior related to the Lampazianie case.
The charges have been dismissed as baseless by the attorneys referred to in Embry's motion.
Since being removed from the Lampazianie case, Embry has retained her own attorney, Waco-based David R. Schleicher, who says he specializes in handling cases involving disputes within the U.S. Department of Justice.
"Ms. Embry has retained counsel to represent her in certain disputes with the U.S. Attorney's Office," Schleicher said in a written statement. "She will not comment at the current time about such matters so that she may give as much attention as possible to her usual job duties. She will continue to abide by the highest ethical standards and to expect others to do likewise."
Daryl Fields, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Antonio, also declined to comment on the Embry matter.
On yet another front in the Lampazianie case, medical records filed recently on Marcello Lampazianie's behalf with the court indicate that he has had serious psychiatric problems since 1989, when Marcello suffered brain damage due to a car accident.
Marcello is named by the government as a central conspirator in the insurance fraud case brought against the Lampazianies. The alleged conspiracy to defraud insurers, according to the indictment against the family members, began in 1992, after The Pain Therapy Clinic was launched.
The court recently ordered that Marcello be examined by a government psychiatrist in San Antonio to determine whether he is mentally competent.
"If they find that Marcello was incompetent at the time the alleged crime occurred, the government's case falls apart, because he was a major portion of the case," says …