November 29, 2005                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

HAMILTON WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO FELONY INSURANCE FRAUD Accomplice Backs Out Of Plea Agreement; Opts For Jury Trial


      Helena, Mont., Nov. 29, 2005 - Montana State Auditor John Morrison announced that Hamilton-area resident Autumn Rodne pled guilty in Ravalli County District Court last week to committing felony Insurance Fraud. In doing so, Rodne also pled guilty to reckless driving and providing false reports to law enforcement officials, both misdemeanors.
      "Insurance fraud costs Montanans millions of dollars each year in the form of higher insurance premiums," said Morrison. "My office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone involved in fraudulent activity."
      The case was prosecuted by State Auditor John Morrison's office and the Ravalli County Attorney's office following an investigation by the state Auditor's Office and the Montana Highway Patrol. It stemmed from an incident where Rodne admitted she purposely crashed a vehicle owned by Corvallis resident Tara L. Hooper into her own car with the purpose of fraudulently collecting insurance proceeds. The women filed a report with the Montana Highway Patrol, and claims were made to Hooper's insurance company for damages to both women's cars.
      Rodne entered her guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement with the State, wherein both the Defendant and the State recommended Rodne receive a three year deferred sentence. The Court scheduled formal sentencing for January 10, 2006.
      Hooper was also scheduled to enter a guilty plea last week. However, she changed her mind and has requested a jury trial. District Court Judge Jeffrey H. Langton is the presiding judge and will be setting the schedule for a trial date.
      "This plea is the direct result of the cooperative efforts of the law enforcement agencies involved in this case," Morrison continued. "Working together, we are bringing to justice those individuals who take money from Montanans by defrauding insurance companies. I commend all the investigators involved for a terrific team effort."