Three Men Indicted in N.Y. Motorcycle Fraud Ring

June 2, 2003

Eliot Spitzer, New York’s Attorney General, and State Insurance Department Superintendent Gregory V. Serio jointly announced the arrest of three men, Michael Colon, Rafael Feliz and Fermin Gonell, named as defendants in a 44-count indictment voted by a Bronx grand jury.

The three are charged with “Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, and numerous felony counts of grand larceny, insurance fraud, and falsifying business records,” said the bulletin. The Bronx-based insurance fraud ring allegedly submitted phony property damage claims to insurance carriers. The indictment indicated that “between February and October of 2002, the defendants submitted at least 14 property damage claims to insurers for motorcycle accidents that never took place. The carriers paid out more than $85,000 on the bogus claims.”

Serio stated: “These individuals arrested today thought they had a sophisticated fraud ring set up to make fast cash and we put an end to that. The collaborative efforts of the Department and the Attorney General’s Office are resulting in the investigation, arrest and prosecution of insurance fraud more aggressively than ever before to take individuals like these off the streets to ensure insurance benefits go to honest, legitimate claims.” The most recent charges are “the product of a long-term investigation in which nine other individuals were previously charged with insurance fraud, grand larceny and related crimes. Felony charges against the nine previously charged defendants are pending,” the announcement continued.

“The leaders of the insurance fraud ring are alleged to have paid cohorts several hundred dollars per incident to report that their vehicle had been involved in an accident with a motorcycle. Another cohort would falsely claim to be the owner of the motorcycle. The defendants either inflicted damage on the motorcycles or installed damaged parts to convince insurance companies’ appraisers that an accident had taken place. After the insurance carriers issued payment for the cost of repairing the motorcycles used in the phony accidents, the defendants and their cohorts would divide the proceeds,” said the announcement.

It indicated that Gonell allegedly “recruited individuals to use their automobile insurance policies, directed the manner in which individuals would report accidents to the insurance companies and was the registered owner of one of the motorcycles used in the scam. He also paid individuals who participated in the accidents.”

The bulletin described Feliz as the owner of an automobile repair facility – Fordham Auto Repair, 2409 Jerome Avenue in the Bronx – where most of the motorcycles were seen by insurance company appraisers and the loss location for two accidents. He also falsely claimed to own a motorcycle in one of the accidents.” While Colon was cited as “the registered owner of a motorcycle that was used in four phony accidents. He also falsely claimed to own another motorcycle involved in a fifth accident.”

The defendants each face up to seven years in prison if convicted of the top charges in the indictments.

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