New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor has embarked on an initiative targeting fugitives from justice who have failed to appear in court after being charged with insurance fraud-related crimes.
As a result of the initiative, state investigators assigned to the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor have arrested several fugitives charged with reportedly participating in a phony automobile accident insurance fraud scheme which involved more than $90,000 in fraudulent insurance claims. The fugitive arrests result from aggressive efforts by the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor to obtain bench warrants and track down defendants who refuse to appear in court.
Harvey noted that 839 tips have been received by the insurance fraud hotline… 1-877-55-FRAUD… during the first nine months of 2003 (Jan. 1 – Sept. 30). The insurance fraud hotline received 1,694 tip calls in 2002. The 24-hour insurance fraud hotline was established by the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor to encourage citizens to anonymously report information on suspected insurance fraud and other crimes directly to state investigators.
“The insurance fraud tipline has significantly bolstered the ability of the Division of Criminal Justice and the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor to achieve results in combating insurance fraud,” Harvey said.
The Attorney General noted that in 2002, the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor realized a 143 percent increase in indictments; a 91 percent increase in defendants charged; a 79 percent increase in convictions (trial convictions and guilty pleas); and a 60 percent increase in civil sanctions. The Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor filed criminal charges against 225 defendants and imposed sanctions in 3,723 civil fraud cases in 2002. Additionally, the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor collected $20.6 million in penalties in 2002, up from $15.8 million in 2001.
According to Vaughn McKoy, Director, Division of Criminal Justice and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown, the fugitive arrests stem from a series of state grand jury indictments which charged 11 individuals with creating “staged” accidents in order to file phony insurance claims totaling more than $90,000.
The March 19 indictments charged Dannie Campbell, 52, of Union County, as the alleged mastermind and “runner” of a “staged” automobile accident ring.
Campbell and the 10 co-defendants were charged with conspiracy, Health Care Claims Fraud and attempted theft by deception in connection with the staged accident ring. The defendants were ordered to appear in Essex County Superior Court for arraignment on April 17 and June 23.
Despite being ordered to appear in court, seven defendants reportedly failed to appear and bench warrants for their arrests were issued by Superior Court Judge Joseph Isabella. The defendants are identified as:
• George Holly, Jr. 26, of Union County;
• Nathaniel Jones, 27, of Essex County;
• Rashonda Harris, 23, of Essex County;
• Robert Paul Mitchner, a/k/a “Shaboor”, 40, of Essex County;
• Duane Smith, 38, of Essex County;
• Monesha Gray, 31, of Essex County; and
• Debra Mathis, 39, of Essex County.
Gooden Brown noted that as part of stepped-up efforts to track down and locate wanted fugitives, state investigators from the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor “hit the streets” to locate, identify and arrest the fugitive defendants.
As a result, Harris, Mathis and Gray were arrested on Oct. 17 and taken to the Essex County jail. Harris was arrested at 7:20 a.m. at 2 Columbia Ave., Newark. Mathis was arrested at 10:15 a.m. at 55 Glenwood Terrace, Newark, while Gray was arrested at 4:00 p.m. at 216 21st St., Irvington. The defendants remain in the Essex County Jail pending arraignment scheduled for Oct. 22 before Judge Isabella. State investigators continue the search for the remaining four defendants.
The indictments allege that between July, 1997 and March, 1999, Dannie Campbell created two fictitious automobile accidents which involved the filing of fraudulent accident reports and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance claims to police and insurance companies for fake injuries purportedly sustained in the phony accidents. The phony accidents allegedly took place on July 24, 1997 in Hillside and on Sept. 16, 1998 in Newark.
As a result of the “staged” accidents, the 10 co-defendants reportedly filed fraudulent PIP insurance claims totaling more than $90,000 with Keystone Insurance Company/AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance Company. Keystone denied payment and referred the cases to the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor for investigation and prosecution. Deputy Attorney General Michael Monahan, state investigator Johnny Ho, and Civil Investigator Julia Ferreira coordinated the investigation.
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