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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
February 17, 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

Union County Insurance Company Employee Pleads Guilty to $19,000 Insurance Fraud

TRENTON - Division of Criminal Justice Director Vaughn L. McKoy announced that a State Farm Insurance Company employee has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $19,000 by creating fraudulent insurance claims checks.

According to Director McKoy and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden-Brown, Lola Ruth Byrd, 37, East Front Street, Plainfield, pleaded guilty before Union County Superior Court Judge John S. Triarsi to a March 31, 2004 State Grand Jury indictment filed by the Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. The indictment charges Byrd with theft by deception (3rd degree). When sentenced on July 29, Byrd faces up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

At the Feb. 14 guilty plea hearing, Byrd, a State Farms Insurance Company claims service assistant, admitted that between Dec. 19, 2001 and Feb. 15, 2002, while employed in the company’s Cranford Fire Insurance Division, she generated ten State Farm Insurance drafts payable to another person, Sherman McNeil. According to the indictment, McNeil had no connection to any of the old property loss files that Byrd accessed to create the phony claims checks. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor determined that Byrd would access closed claims files, create fraudulent insurance claims checks as if McNeil had sustained property losses and was entitled to insurance claim money, and then immediately close the claims files. The investigation further determined that, in addition to her computer terminal, Byrd would generate the false claims on a co-worker’s computer terminal and also the main switchboard terminal.

State Investigator Janet Wustefeld, Civil Investigator Andre Mitchell, and Deputy Attorneys General Cheryl A. Maccaroni and Nicholas Vasile were assigned to the investigation into this case. DAG Vasile represented the Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor at the guilty plea. The investigation was referred to the Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor by State Farm.

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