July 21--Who should get the money from a life insurance policy issued on behalf of a woman who admitted embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the tourism organization she headed before apparently killing herself?
The answer isn't obvious, because there are competing claims.
The policyholder, former Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau director Deborah Dusenbery, changed the beneficiary shortly after she was placed on leave and two weeks before she died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the mouth.
The insurance company that carried the policy wants a judge to decide.
Principal Life Insurance Company of Des Moines, Iowa, issued a group policy in 2000 to the Farmington tourism agency under which Dusenbery, who later became executive director, obtained $100,000 in coverage on her life, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
Dusenbery acknowledged to Farmington Police Department detective Robert J. Perez in a phone conversation on Jan. 13 that she had fraudulently used between $100,000 and $200,000 in convention bureau money to pay for her mother's medical care but that her will directed the executor to reimburse the bureau for the funds she embezzled.
According to the court document, Perez later received a package of documents that included excerpts from Dusenbery's will showing instructions to repay all inappropriate expenditures of funds from the convention bureau.
However, Dusenbery faxed a change of beneficiary form to the insurance company Jan. 16, nam- ing a friend as primary beneficiary and another friend as contingent beneficiary.
On Jan. 31, Dusenbery's body was found in Arizona.
The convention bureau, through its attorney, told Principal Life that it "would have had an interest in the proceeds of the life insurance policy as creditors of the estate" absent the change in beneficiary. The board believes the change was an attempt by Dusenbery "to deny (the convention bureau) the opportunity to recapture a portion of funds" she embezzled.
The convention bureau also challenges Dusenbery's right to change beneficiaries under the circumstances.
And there's more.
While Dusenbery admitted taking between $100,000 and $200,000 when she spoke to the police, the letter from convention bureau attorney Dick Gerding says the amount is more than double that.
Auditors found that the embezzled money was used for trips by Dusenbery and others to Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas, the Dominican Republic, Belize and the Grand Cayman Islands and for vehicles and a hot tub.
Principal Life says it can't pay any of the defendants without incurring possible multiple liability. The company wants to deposit funds from the policy into the court registry and have a judge decide who gets paid.
(c)2012 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services