Insurance fraud lands woman in jail

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A fender bender, a hit and run and a false insurance claim were the ingredients of a Coeur d’Alene criminal case that landed a Rathdrum mother of two behind bars.

Zoe R. Barham, 32, was found guilty of insurance fraud by a jury and sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison. First District Judge Cynthia K.C. Meyer however suspended the sentence, placing Barham on probation for three years and ordering her to spend 30 days in the county jail.

Investigators said Barham visited Heritage Health Medical Clinic in Coeur d’Alene one morning in the winter of 2017 in a car she owned, which was being driven by a friend.

When the women left their parking spot in Barham’s Ford Explorer they struck a parked vehicle, but failed to stop and report the accident, or leave a note for the owner of the other car.

Alicia Dibble, who owned the banged up car, reported the damage to her insurance company 23 minutes after the accident although she didn’t know who struck her car, or when it was struck. It wasn’t until investigators viewed video from the clinic, that they determined Barham’s Ford Explorer hit Dibble’s car.

Meanwhile Barham had purchased insurance coverage for her Explorer 90 minutes after the accident, according to investigators.

When she was confronted about the crash and the quick purchase of insurance after the fact to cover the cost, Barham repeatedly maintained her innocence, according to court reports, but she changed her story.

Jurors last September did not buy into Barham’s claims, finding her guilty of insurance fraud, which can carry a 15-year prison sentence accompanied by a $15,000 fine.

At Tuesday’s sentencing, Barham said she wasn’t aware of the severity of the crime and was remorseful for her actions, but Meyer questioned her regret.

“I’m a good person,” Barham said. “I go to work and I do what I’m supposed to do.”

Meyer was concerned Barham knowingly filed a false claim, and then disputed any wrongdoing.

“You didn’t take responsibility for what you did, until you had no choice,” Meyer said.

The judge ordered Barham to give back $1,403 that was part of a state disbursement, but a hearing will be held to determine if an additional $2,500 in restitution should be ordered.

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