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Letters from prison tell the story of a $1.65 million insurance fraud

Fictitious insurance claims filed by Joshua Miller, owner of a Syracuse hearing-aid dispenser, cost the New York state insurance fund $1.65 million. Learn how he, and others, edged the system to commit the crime.

Joshua Miller was born into a lower middle-class family of five children that didn’t have much to share with one another in their home in Oneonta, New York. He landed his first job as a paperboy when he was 10. As a teenager, he mowed lawns and shoveled snow for neighbors to earn spending money. In high school, he worked as a cook in a restaurant and continued with the same paper route until his graduation in 1996 when he began working on a business management degree at Niagara University.

By 2004, Miller had started working at a New York state-licensed hearing aid dispenser and seven years later would become the owner of the company — Syracuse Hearing Aid Centers LLC. In 2006, he met Christina. They married in 2008 and later had four children. Miller considered himself the luckiest man in the world.

That luck changed Sept. 14, 2016, when Onondaga County Court Judge Anthony F. Aloi sentenced Miller to four to 12 years in state prison for his 2015 conviction of first- and second-degree grand larceny after his guilty plea for his part in defrauding a New York State health insurance program of $1.65 million. (See Minoa scam artist gets 4 to 12 years for faking $1.6 million in hearing aids sales, by Douglass Dowty, Syracuse.com, June 29, 2016.)

How did a hardworking man who built such a great life and family wind up going to state prison? From November 2016 to February 2017, we corresponded with Miller while he was incarcerated at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, New York. In those letters, he describes his motivations for the crimes he committed and the circumstances that led him down the proverbial slippery slope to becoming a convicted fraudster.

How did Miller become our pen pal? During a 2016 spring semester fraud examination class at Cornell University, Professor Jack Little (one of the authors of this article) tasked his students with researching a fraud of their choice. Megan Sutton (the other author of this article), and her class teammates, investigated Miller’s case. When Little was grading the team’s work, he asked Sutton’s team members, “So, why did he do it?” because they hadn’t discovered the usual reasons: unshared pressure in family finances or compulsive behaviors such as addictions. As Sutton was returning to Cornell for her final year, she and Little decided to reach out to Miller to dig deeper into the rationale behind the fraud. This article contains their findings.


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