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County aims to freeze assets of SAMIS

The insurance administrator and its president are accused in a fraud case that could involve millions of dollars

Jackson County has slapped SAMIS Inc. of Medford and its president with a petition for involuntary bankruptcy, a move that could freeze the company's assets and ensure the county gets its piece of the pie if alleged fraud is proven.

The county filed its petition last week in federal court.

Up to 20 of SAMIS Inc.'s former clients, in addition to Jackson County, are part of a criminal investigation against the worker compensation claim processing company and its president, Suzanne Doreen Crawford. Medford police say the case could involve millions in missing money.

Crawford, 54, is accused of fraud, theft and spending money she allegedly embezzled for personal and family uses.

Medford police arrested Crawford ' formerly Suzanne Worthington ' in February on a charge of first-degree aggravated theft. She posted bail and reportedly resumed working at SAMIS, according to Medford police. Repeated attempts to contact Crawford have been unsuccessful. A Barnett Road listing for SAMIS Inc. has been disconnected.

SAMIS is a third-party insurance administrator. Its job is to pay insurance claims to medical providers from client trust funds, then seek reimbursement from the clients.

Former clients that police consider potential victims include Ashland, Roseburg, Naumes Inc., Harry and David owner Yamanouchi Consumer Inc., Sherm's Thunderbird Market and Washington, Douglas and Josephine counties.

Sherm's, the first SAMIS client to file a civil court claim, accepted a &

36;96,000 settlement in March, plus interest and legal expenses. Sabroso Co. filed a civil claim against SAMIS and Crawford in April, seeking &

36;50,000.

The criminal case remains under active investigation, Medford police Sgt. Roy Skinner said Wednesday. The number of victims and exact amount allegedly embezzled is still unclear.

It is a complicated case. There's so many victims involved in this, Skinner added. It may run into the millions; I just don't know.

Jackson County employed SAMIS Inc. until 2000 to process liability and workers compensation claims. The county is seeking &

36;217,902.77, according to County Counsel Mike Jewett. The county now uses Mike Farrell and Associates of Portland instead of SAMIS, he added.

The Oregonian on Tuesday reported that Jackson, Josephine, Douglas and Washington counties are seeking a combined total of more than &

36;1.1 million in claims from SAMIS, with Josephine County's claim the largest at &

36;446,906.

An involuntary bankruptcy petition is filed by creditors to prevent the debtor ' in this case SAMIS ' from moving or transferring assets. Jewett said the petition also ensures that no claimants will be left out if Crawford is forced to pay back her alleged victims.

It's the orderly thing to do, Jewett said. It avoids the specter of a number of attorneys fighting over their share and wasting a whole lot of tax dollars.

Jewett said Crawford has the option of fighting the petition.

Crawford's attorney for the criminal charges she faces, Carl Caplan of Medford, declined to comment on the case.

A phone call to Crawford's civil attorney, William Fowler of Medford, was not returned Wednesday.

Reach reporter Jill Briskey at 776-4485, or e-mail