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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
May 16, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Vaughn L. McKoy, Director
Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor
- Greta Gooden Brown, Insurance Fraud Prosecutor

 

Rachel Sacharow
609- 984-1936

 

Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Charges Three Union County Residents with Auto Insurance PIP Fraud Scam

TRENTON - Division of Criminal Justice Director Vaughn L. McKoy announced that the Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor has obtained an indictment charging three Union County residents with insurance fraud for their roles in an alleged automobile insurance Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud scam.

According to Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden-Brown, Ayana D. Torres, 29, Elizabeth Avenue, Elizabeth, Union County; Geraldo Torres, 28, whose last know address was also Elizabeth Avenue, Elizabeth; and Ayana Torres’ brother, Jose Rivera, 30, whose last known address was Bank Street, Elizabeth, were charged by the Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor with conspiracy to commit Health Care Claims Fraud and Health Care Claims Fraud (both 2nd degree), and theft by deception (3rd degree). If convicted of all charges, each defendant faces up to 25 years and a fine of up to $315,000. In addition, defendants face the possibility of the imposition of civil insurance fraud fines pursuant to the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act.

The Union County Grand Jury indictment alleges that between March and November 2000, Ayana Torres, Geraldo Torres and Rivera conspired to submit false PIP claims to State Farm Insurance. It is charged that on March 10, 2000, Ayana Torres went to Highway Service Garage, Trumbull Street, Elizabeth to pick up her car. The car had been towed by the police because it did not have a valid inspection sticker and Rivera, who was driving the vehicle at the time, did not have a valid driver’s license. According to the indictment, when Ayana Torres started the vehicle it lurched forward and struck another vehicle.

An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice determined that, despite the fact that Geraldo Torres and Jose Rivera were not in the vehicle at the time it lurched forward, PIP claims worth more than $1,200 were submitted to State Farm Insurance Company on their behalf. State Farm denied the claim and referred the matter to the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor for investigation.

State Investigators Lisa Egan and Thomas Harrington, Civil Investigator Eileen Bellantine, and Deputy Attorney General Philip J. Mogavero were assigned to the investigation. DAG Mogavero represented the Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor before the Union County Grand Jury.

"A false automobile accident claim requires that a person be willing to lie multiple times - to police officers, insurance carriers, doctors and attorneys - and it is this lengthy pattern of deception that makes these crimes so troubling," Fraud Prosecutor Gooden-Brown said. "This indictment sends a strong message to those who would choose to involve themselves in this type of criminal activity."

Noting that some important cases have begun with anonymous tips from the public, Prosecutor Brown emphasized that individuals can make a difference. “We need people’s information, not their identities. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have any information about a fraud can call our toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visit our Web site at www.NJInsurancefraud.org .”.

The indictment, which was handed up on May 6, is merely an accusation. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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