Sinkhole scheme leads to jail time

Mar 23, 2009

St. Petersburg Times--March 19, 2009

By John Frank, Times Staff Writer

BROOKSVILLE – A Tampa insurance adjuster convicted by a jury in February for solicitation to commit insurance fraud and forging a check related to a sinkhole claim received 120 days in jail Thursday.

Karim Hayavi’s attorney asked for a lenient sentence – probation and adjudication withheld – but prosecutor Erin Corcoran Daly and Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing felt the 30-year-old father of two needed to understand the severity of his crime.

The judge said Hayavi must serve the first 90 days of his sentence in jail with the remaining 30 days served on 15 consecutive weekends. Hayavi faced a maximum of 10 years in prison.

“I wanted him to get a feel for … the seriousness of this,” Rushing said.

Hayavi also received nine years of probation and 500 hours of community service. Rushing stripped him of his adjuster’s license, forbade him from working in the insurance industry and declared he no longer could hold a position of fiduciary responsibility.

Defense attorney Michael Giasi objected to the harsh sentence for his client, who has no criminal history. Hayavi’s father, brother and wife all testified at the hearing, calling him “a good man” and vowing he did his job well.

But the victim recounted how Hayavi approached her in February 2006 and offered to help her settle a sinkhole claim on her Spring Hill home. She signed a contract but grew frustrated with his services and the portion of the claim check he took as payment.

My house, she said, “was my whole world and all I had.”

The case is complicated by a family feud that is sure to extend the proceedings.

Before the sentencing, Hayavi’s attorney filed a motion for a new trial based on an affidavit signed by the victim’s sister that attempted to discredit much of the victim’s testimony at trial.

The fight also is likely to spill into civil court where the victim and Hayavi will debate the lingering financial issues.