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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information:

August 9, 2006

Office of The Attorney General
- Zulima V. Farber, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Gregory A. Paw, Director
Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor
- Greta Gooden Brown, Insurance Fraud Prosecutor

 

Division of Criminal Justice
609-984-1936

 
Division of Criminal Justice - Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Charges Owner of Union County Auto Body Shop and Six Others
in Staged Accident Insurance Fraud Scam

TRENTON - Attorney General Zulima V. Farber and Division of Criminal Justice Director Gregory A. Paw announced that seven individuals, including the owner of a Union County auto body shop, were named today in a state grand jury indictment for their roles in a $117,000 staged accident insurance fraud scam.

According to Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown, the seven defendants were charged as follows:

  • Marco Rebelo, 33, of Avenel, the owner and operator of Creative Auto Body on 409 East 1st Avenue in Roselle, was charged with conspiracy, misconduct by a corporate official, both in the second-degree, as well as third-degree tampering with public records or information;
  • Eli Vasquez, 33, currently incarcerated at Bayside State Prison, was charged with second-degree conspiracy and four counts of third-degree theft and attempted theft by deception;
  • Danny DaCosta, 26, of Elizabeth, was charged with second-degree conspiracy and two counts of third-degree theft and attempted theft by deception;
  • Rogerio Neves, 37, of Elizabeth, was charged with second-degree conspiracy and third-degree theft and attempted theft by deception;
  • Rui Correia, 26, of Elizabeth, was charged with second-degree conspiracy and third degree theft and attempted theft by deception;
  • Charles T. Smith, 35, of Willingboro, was charged with third-degree theft and attempted theft by deception; and
  • Marquita Best, 31, of Linden, was charged with third-degree theft and attempted theft by deception.

Under state law, crimes of the second degree carry a maximum punishment of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000, while crimes of the third degree carry a maximum punishment of five years in state prison and a criminal fine of $15,000. In addition, the defendants may face civil insurance fraud fines.

The indictment alleges that the defendants reported seven staged or fictitious car accidents between March 2001 and March 2003 and filed more than $117,800 in fraudulent automobile insurance property damage claims based on those phony accidents. The defendants and others allegedly provided false information for police accident reports from the Roselle and Plainfield Police Departments that were used to support the accident claims. Claims were filed with Progressive Insurance Company, Great American Insurance Company, Clarendon National Insurance Company, State Farm Insurance Company and the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. Approximately $94,200 was paid by the insurance companies.

The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg in Mercer County. Feinberg ordered that the case be prosecuted in Union County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court to answer the charges on a date to be determined.

The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

State Investigators Thomas Harrington and Lisa Egan, Civil Investigators Raymond Britton, Arthur Williams and Joseph Burro, and Deputy Attorney General Joseph J. Egan, Jr. were assigned to the investigation. Egan presented the case to the state grand jury.

“Staged car accidents are a particularly egregious form of insurance fraud, because of the potential they present for injury or even death,” said Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Brown.“Today’s indictment demonstrates our resolve to vigorously investigate and prosecute this type of crime.”

Prosecutor Brown noted that some important cases have begun with anonymous tips from the public. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have any information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling our toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visit our Web site at www.NJInsuranceFraud.org. State regulations permit an award to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.

The Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor was established by the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act of 1998 (AICRA). The Office is the centralized state agency that investigates and prosecutes both civil and criminal insurance fraud, as well as Medicaid fraud. Criminal convictions for insurance fraud can result in fines and imprisonment, while civil penalties can include substantial fines and referral for revocation or suspension of professional licenses.

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