Wanted N.J. Broker Caught Miles Away

August 6, 2004

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor has secured the arrest and extradition of a former Hunterdon County insurance broker and financial planner on charges that he cleaned-out retirement annuity accounts of more than $300,000 held by a 78 year-old New Jersey senior citizen.

As a result of the alleged theft, the senior citizen was left penniless, alone and living in a one-room retirement home.

Criminal Justice Director Vaughn McKoy said that Michael B. Chamberlain, 62, of Califon, Hunterdon County, and Ocala, Fla., was arrested on July 26 at his Florida residence on a New Jersey warrant charging theft by unlawful taking (2nd degree) and forgery (3rd degree). Chamberlain was lodged in the Marion County, Fla., jail pending extradition to New Jersey. On July 30, Chamberlain waived extradition and was returned to New Jersey this week by State Investigators assigned to the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.

According to Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown, the arrest warrant charges that from September, 1997 through July, 2000, Chamberlain systematically looted the victims’ annuity accounts, invested the monies for his own benefit, and ultimately purchased a resort home valued at more than $400,000 in Ocola, Fla.

It is alleged that Chamberlain, a licensed securities broker formerly employed at United Planners’ Financial Services of America in Hunterdon County, diverted investment funds from at least three separate American Skandia annuity accounts he managed for the 78 year-old senior citizen.

In 2003, the victim was notified by the Internal Revenue Service that he owed more than $56,000 in back taxes from taxable withdrawals from the annuity accounts. At this point, the victim contacted American Skandia and Chamberlain regarding the status of the accounts. The victim was reportedly advised by Chamberlain that the monies had been invested and stolen.

The Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor investigation determined that as a result of the alleged fraud, the 78 year-old victim is without retirement funds, nearly penniless, and living in a one-room retirement home.

A second degree crime carries a maximum penalty of up to ten years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Crimes of the third degree carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Additionally, the defendant may face possible civil insurance fraud fines pursuant to the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act. The case will be presented to a State Grand Jury for review and potential indictment.

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