N.J. Man Charged with Stealing Thousands from 9/11 Disaster Programs Notes Additional Scams

January 27, 2004

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that a Camden County man previously convicted and sentenced to 10 years in state prison for stealing more than $140,000 in 9/11 survivor benefits has admitted committing thousands of dollars in additional frauds, including staging automobile accidents to collect insurance money and credit card fraud.

According to Vaughn McKoy, director, Division of Criminal Justice, Mark Christopher, aka Mark Valentine, Mark Palmerri, Mark Alexander, Eric Self, 39, formerly of Camden County, pled guilty before Camden County Superior Court Judge William Cook to charges of Health Care Claims Fraud, theft by deception and credit card fraud. As a result of the guilty pleas, Christopher, currently serving 10 years in state prison, faces up to 10 more years incarceration. Christopher is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Cook on March 19.

“The investigations by the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor and the Organized Crime and Racketeering Bureau confirm the undisputed fact that Christopher is a career criminal who has lived his entire life through false identities and criminal schemes,” said McKoy. “The Division of Criminal Justice investigated and prosecuted these various cases with vigor and determination. The term of incarceration for the crimes is significant.”

Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown said that Christopher pled guilty to charges contained in a criminal Accusation filed by the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. In pleading guilty, Christopher admitted that between Dec. 11,1997 and April 14, 2001, to orchestrating and participating in at least eight staged automobile accidents in Camden and Burlington Counties. As a result of the phony accidents, Christopher submitted more than $17,000 in fraudulent property damage claims, and in one instance, a $4,000 fraudulent bodily injury claim.

Gooden Brown noted that the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor’s investigation determined that Christopher used numerous aliases and various schemes in staging the phony accidents, favoring the use of standard insurance policies purchased in the course of renting U-Haul type trucks. In one claim, Christopher reportedly rented a U-Haul truck in the name of Mark Valentine and staged an accident with the rented truck and a car (registered under the name Mark Palmerri) driven by his girlfriend. A fraudulent claim was submitted to U-Haul’s insurance company, Republic Western Insurance. Republic Western paid a $4,181 accident claim.

In another staged accident, Christopher’s girlfriend reportedly leased a truck from Penske Trucks using the fictitious name of Lisa Palmerri. Fast Track Auto Claims, the company which provides insurance services for Penske Trucks, paid a $4,254 accident claim to Mark Alexander, another alias used by Mark Christopher.

In a third staged accident, Christopher, using the alias Mark Palmerri, reportedly claimed that his car was struck by a Ryder Rent-a-Truck which was operated by Mark Valentine, yet another Christopher alias. In that case, Specialty National Insurance Company paid a $2,550 claim. Additional accident claims totaling $3,600 were paid by Republic Western Insurance Company, along with more than $4,000 in various health care claims for treatment of purported injuries Christopher claimed to have sustained in the purported auto accidents.

McKoy said that Christopher also pled guilty to credit card fraud, admitting that he retrieved credit card receipts and credit card information from trash bins at various truck rental agencies in Camden County. The investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice – Organized Crime and Racketeering Bureau uncovered evidence that Christopher used the stolen credit card information to reportedly purchase more than $3,000 in consumer items, including computer and electronic items and automotive supplies.

McKoy noted that the Division of Criminal Justice obtained two separate State Grand Jury indictments against Christopher on March 13 and Aug. 8, 2002.

The indictments charged that Christopher applied to the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seeking more than $140,000 in post-disaster aid. The investigations determined that in separate applications for post-disaster aid, Christopher reportedly claimed that his wife “Lisa Palmerri” and his wife “Kim Christopher” had died in the World Trade Center tragedy. The indictments charged that neither “Lisa Palmerri” nor “Kim Christopher” ever existed. In making the applications for post 9/11 disaster assistance, it was determined that Christopher provided bogus birth dates, social security numbers and other identifying information.

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