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Two former Hartford claims handlers indicted


HOUSTON--A federal indictment accuses two former claims handlers for Hartford Insurance Co. of accepting kickbacks and bribes from a Texas attorney representing plaintiffs with silica-related health claims against Hartford policyholders.

The indictment, unsealed Wednesday in Houston, also names attorney Warren Todd Hoeffner, a partner in the Houston office of Hoeffner & Bilek L.L.P.

It alleges that Connecticut residents Rachel Rossow and John Prestage, who worked in Hartford's Claims and Legal Management Services department handling general liability claims, and Mr. Hoeffner induced Hartford to pay $34 million to settle health claims against companies that manufactured products containing silica.

Hartford referred the case to prosecutors, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The three are accused in the 14-count indictment of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering.

According to the indictment, the claims managers received more than $3 million between February 2002 and November 2004 for recommending that Hartford settle. Each also allegedly received a BMW from Mr. Hoeffner.

Mr. Hoeffner received more than $5 million of the settlement funds for attorney fees, the indictment alleges.