For Immediate Release: August 26, 2011

Insurance Investigators and U.S. Marshals Arrest Fugitive in Columbus County

RALEIGH -- Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin today announced the arrest of Merlin Jerome "MJ" Smith, 44, of 154 Lakeview Drive, Elizabethtown; he is charged with one count of obtaining property by false pretense, 34 counts of attempting to obtain property by false pretense, four counts of felony obstruction of justice, and 31 counts of acting as an unlicensed bail bondsman.

Department of Insurance criminal investigators allege that as one of the owners CAB Bail Bonding of Elizabethtown, Smith filed bond forfeiture motions that contained false information in Robeson and Bladen Counties. Investigators also allege that Smith acted as a bail bondsman between December 2010 and February 2011, although he was not licensed as such.

Department of Insurance investigators worked closely with the U.S. Marshals Service for eight months to apprehend Smith, who was arrested on Aug. 25 in Boardman, N.C., by the U.S. Marshals Service, Fayetteville Violent Fugitive Task Force.

Once in custody, officers served Smith with additional charges that included two orders of arrest for failing to appear in Robeson County Superior Court, one Columbus County warrant for failure to return rental property, and one Durham County warrant for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Smith was processed by the Lumberton Police Department and taken before a Robeson County Magistrate where he was placed under a $169,000 secured bond. He is being held in the Robeson County Detention Facility pending an outstanding grand jury indictment from Bladen County for obtaining property by false pretense and felony obstruction of justice, as well as for an outstanding probation violation warrant from the Bladen County Probation Office from which he had absconded. Smith is scheduled to appear in Robeson County District Court on Aug. 26.

The Department of Insurance employs 20 sworn state law enforcement officers dedicated to investigating and prosecuting claims of insurance and bail bonding fraud. Since Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin took office in 2008, criminal investigators have received more than 11,000 complaints resulting in 505 arrests, 286 criminal convictions, and more than 100 cases currently pending a court appearance. These arrests have resulted in more than $44 million in restitution and recoveries for victims.

An estimated 10 cents of every dollar paid in premiums goes toward the payment of fraudulent claims. To report suspected fraud, contact the Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division at 919-807-6840. Callers may remain anonymous. Information is also available at www.ncdoi.com.

--NCDOI--