Driven to Steal: Woman says fugitive scammed her of over $15K in insurance money

(WSVN) - A suspect on the run from Illinois authorities has turned here up in South Florida, and now, police here are investigating him after a car accident. The Nightteam’s Brian Entin reports on how one Miami woman says this fugitive is “Driven to Steal.”

It all started with a car accident.

Milly Santana, victim: “I wake up Sunday morning to go to church, and I find my car had been crashed into by a neighbor while it was parked.”

Milly Santana filed a police report and made a claim with her neighbor’s insurance company.

It should have been simple, but then she met a man who said he could help.

Milly Santana: “He introduced himself as attorney John Ryan from the Harding and Pierce Law Firm.”

Harding and Pierce’s website says it has locations across the country with the main office here in Miami.

It looked legitimate to Milly.

Milly Santana: “I signed a retainer contract with him. I paid him $1,000 up front.”

She says John Ryan promised to sue the insurance company and get a big settlement, but after a month of empty promises, she confronted Ryan.

Milly Santana: “I’m starting to lose my patience, and he starts getting nasty with me as well.”

When she reached out to another attorney, she realized she had been taken.

Milly Santana: “He’s not even a licensed lawyer!”

He might not be a lawyer, but John Ryan needed one in his past.

In 2013, he was convicted of strangling his girlfriend in Wisconsin.

He skipped out on jail time and went on the run for nine months.

That came to an end in 2014 after Ryan was busted right outside the Wisconsin State Capitol building for registering bogus businesses.

Two years later, Ryan moved to Illinois, where police say he claimed to be a lawyer there, too!

He was charged for using stolen credit cards and pleaded guilty to identity theft in 2017.

Ryan was sentenced to probation but didn’t show up for court, and now there is a warrant for his arrest in Illinois.

Milly Santana: “He’s very scary. He’s very scary.”

By the time Milly found out about John Ryan’s past, her insurance money was already gone.

Milly Santana: “I call USAA, and they confirmed that they had paid him $15,939 on December the 12th.”

Miami police are investigating the case, but no charges have been filed.

The Florida Bar confirms they are “also investigating John R. Ryan Jr.,” but “cannot provide any additional information on the matter at this time.”

John Ryan advertises his office as being on the 27th floor of this downtown office building. 7News is going to go inside and see if it is here.

But before 7News made it very far, security stopped us.

They looked in their office directory but said no John Ryan worked in the building.

In fact, there is no Harding and Pierce Law Firm listed on the directory, so 7News called Ryan.

First, he said he wanted to meet in person, but then he didn’t answer when 7News called back.

Voicemail: “You have reached the phone of John Ryan, senior managing partner at the law firm of Harding and Pierce. I’m currently unavailable.”

Milly Santana: “Stop with the scam. Pay the money. The money doesn’t belong to you. Everybody knows who you are already. Stop it!”

The wheels of justice are not turning fast enough for Milly.

She is hoping police can put the brakes on a man she says is driven to steal.

Milly tells 7News the insurance company will not pay her damage claim a second time.

Milly is stuck with the bill to pay for the repairs to her vehicle, which she says she cannot afford.

She has started a fundraising page to ask for help.

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