Six Passaic County residents were arrested recently and charged with staging automobile accidents. The State is alleging that their actions defrauded two insurance companies out of approximately $78,000.00, in connection with accidents that occurred on or about April 29 2009. According to the State, four of the six suspects were in a minivan that the driver purposely drove into another vehicle carrying the other two suspects. The six have been charged with conspiracy, insurance fraud and theft by deception in a State Grand Jury indictment handed up on April 10, 2014. The charges could lead to prison terms.
This is just one of many recent cases involving the New Jersey Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (“OIFP”), which was first established in 1998. This is a special section in the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office devoted to cases involving insurance fraud. This is not the only office dedicated to such matters. Many – if not most or all – of the county prosecutor’s offices in the State have specialized sections devoted to insurance fraud.
A cursory review of recent insurance fraud prosecutions shows that New Jersey is serious about prosecuting insurance fraud in all of its forms:
* A Hudson County Chiropractor recently pleaded guilty to submitting fraudulent insurance claims, and his license was suspended as a result of his plea;
* The president of a roofing company pleaded guilty to an indictable (felony) offense for allegedly scheming to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance premiums;
* A Union County woman was recently indicted for allegedly filing a fraudulent automobile theft claim;
* A Monmouth County man recently pleaded guilty to submitting fraudulent insurance claims in connection with Superstorm Sandy;
This brief review of recent cases is telling, because it shows that insurance fraud is being prosecuted aggressively on a State-wide basis. (By now, everyone has probably seen the OIFP billboards and bus signs.) Not surprisingly, the cases are frequently indicted by State Grand Juries as opposed to county-level grand juries, because insurance fraud in New Jersey is viewed as a State-wide, as opposed to purely local, issue.
The recent Hudson County case is particularly noteworthy. There, the chiropractor submitted numerous fraudulent insurance claims to Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield for treatments and office visits that never occurred. Because the chiropractor had no prior record for indictable offenses and his case involved a third degree charge, it is highly unlikely that he will face prison time. However, pursuant to the terms of his plea agreement, his chiropractor’s license will be suspended for a period of at least one year. This will obviously have a devastating effect on his ability to earn a living in the near future, and could very well spell the end of his practice. Most defendants focus purely on the possibility of jail time. While the reality of a prison sentence should never be minimized, it is also important to remember that criminal cases have collateral “real-life” consequences that are often very far reaching, and can have lasting effects on the client and their family.
If you are charged with insurance fraud, do not agree to speak with representatives of law enforcement about your case. Do not try to talk your way out of it by yourself. Rather, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can provide you with effective and aggressive representation.