Hartford Insurance case over kickbacks concludes with release of final defendants

By Steve Korris | Nov 29, 2011


HOUSTON – Former Hartford Insurance claims supervisor Rachel Rossow, who received $2.7 million and a BMW 530ia from proceeds of settlements between Hartford and Houston lawyer Todd Hoeffner, gave up the cash and car rather than go to prison.

Rossow forfeited them to the United States on Nov. 10, and U. S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced her to "time served" on Nov. 15.

Former Hartford claims handler John Prestage forfeited a Volvo XC90, and Hittner sentenced him to "time served."

The case record doesn't show how much time they served.

This June, Hittner deferred prosecution of Hoeffner for 12 months.

In 2002, Hoeffner settled silicosis claims with Hartford for about $34 million. Court records show he gave $2.7 million to Rossow and about $600,000 to Prestage, plus cars and trips to New York City and beach resorts.

Grand jurors indicted all three in 2007 on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.

Grand jurors found the three schemed to deprive Hartford of honest services.

Hittner severed Hoeffner from the proceedings against Rossow and Prestage, and brought him to trial in 2009.

Hoeffner claimed the settlements were fair. He argued he didn't bribe them because he gained nothing in return.

He testified that Rossow and Prestage extorted payments from him by threatening to stall settlement approvals indefinitely.

Jurors deliberated three days and gave up.

Prosecutors prepared to try him again, but he pleaded to the Fifth Circuit appellate court in Richmond that another trial would violate his right against double jeopardy.

Rossow and Prestage pleaded guilty of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud last year, but reserved the right to retract the pleas if Hoeffner's appeal succeeded.

The appeal failed, and the U. S. Supreme Court denied review this May.

Hoeffner curbed the appetite of prosecutors for another trial in June by agreeing to forfeit $2,485,000.

On Oct. 31, Hittner set a sentencing hearing for Rossow and Prestage on Nov. 10. They filed briefs on Nov. 8, under seal.

Hittner held the hearing and entered final judgments of forfeiture, finding all matters in dispute had been resolved.

Five days later he accepted guilty pleas from Rossow and Prestage.

He filed a "statement of reasons" for each, under seal.

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