Seven N.J. Residents Charged with Staging Auto Accidents

May 16, 2003

New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor has charged seven individuals with conspiracy and theft by deception for their part in staging automobile accidents in order to fraudulently obtain insurance claim monies.

According to Vaughn McKoy, Acting Director, Division of Criminal Justice and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown, the defendants were charged in three separate indictments returned by the Essex County Grand Jury on May 9 and by the Union County Grand Jury on April 9 (the Union County indictment was sealed pending additional investigation).

Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Brown noted that two Essex County Grand Jury indictments charge Antonio Oliviera, 36, of Newark; Francisco da Cruz, 25, of Newark; and Maria Antunes, 33, of Newark, with conspiracy (3rd degree), theft by deception (3rd degree) and unsworn falsification to authorities (4th degree). Oliviera is the only defendant charged in both Essex County Grand Jury indictments.

The Union County Grand Jury indictment charged Rui Salgado, 24, of Newark; Ricardo Ventura, 24, of Newark; Joseph Caponegro, 23, of Newark; and Anthony Padovano, 24, of Harrison, with one count each of conspiracy (3rd degree) and theft by deception (3rd degree).

Third degree crimes carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Additionally, the defendants face the possibility of civil insurance fraud fines pursuant to the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act.

According to Brown, the Union County indictment alleges that on Oct. 22, 1999, Padovano, while driving a 1998 Toyota, intentionally collided with a 1998 Ducati motorcycle and a 1999 Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle which were parked in front of Caponegro’s house. Neither motorcycle had a rider at the time of the collision. The indictment alleges that Padovano reported the collision as an accident in order to file a fraudulent insurance claim and to collect insurance monies. The false accident report was made to the Union Township Police Department.

The indictment also alleges that Padovano, Caponegro, Salgado and Ventura conspired to stage the automobile/motorcycle accident and shared in the proceeds of the $13,334 insurance claim paid by Rider Insurance Company, Elco Administrative Services, and the Prudential Insurance Company.

The first indictment returned by the Essex County Grand Jury alleges that between March 11 and Oct. 26, 1998, Oliviera and da Cruz conspired to obtain a 1999 Isuzu Rodeo from the M&A Auto Body Shop in Elizabeth, Union County. The indictment charges that Oliviera and da Cruz then chose a location in the city of Newark and intentionally drove the Isuzu Rodeo into a 1993 Nissan so that property damage insurance claims could be submitted to the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. Liberty Mutual paid more than $18,263 in property damage on the fraudulent insurance claim.

A second Essex County Grand Jury indictment alleges that between Oct. 6, 1998 and Jan. 19, 1999, Oliviera and Antunes staged an accident involving an 1994 Honda Civic. Antunes reported the accident to the Newark Police Department and submitted a false accident report to the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company seeking $8,195 in damages.

Suspecting fraud, Liberty Mutual did not pay the claim and referred the case to the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor for investigation.

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