N.J. Residents Pulled Over in Accident Scam

December 16, 2004

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor obtained a State Grand Jury indictment charging five North Jersey residents with conspiracy and theft for allegedly “staging” an automobile accident in order to submit more than $31,000 in phony Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and body injury claims to their insurance carriers.

According to Vaughn McKoy, director, Division of Criminal Justice and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden-Brown, Gladys Roman, 38, of Paterson, Passaic County; Manuel Hernandez, 33, of Paterson; Yaneris Diaz, 37, of Paterson; Hernando Nhar, 36, of Prospect Park, Passaic County; and Claudia Quiroz Mazo, 28, of Elmwood Park, Bergen County, were charged with conspiracy (2nd degree). Quiroz Mazo and Nhar were also charged with theft by deception (3rd degree).

Second degree crimes carry a maximum punishment of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while third degree crimes carry a maximum punishment of five years in state prison and a criminal fine of $15,000. Additionally, the defendants face the possible civil insurance fraud fines pursuant to the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act. The defendants will be ordered to appear in Passaic County Superior Court for arraignment and bail on a date yet to be determined.

The indictment alleges that between Oct. 13, 1998 and Dec. 13, 1999, the five individuals were involved in a purported motor vehicle accident in which a car occupied by Quiroz Mazo, Nhar and Erik Bula, 34, Colonial Avenue, Paterson, was struck in the rear by a car occupied by Roman, Hernandez and Diaz.

An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor reportedly determined that the accident was staged. According to the indictment, Quiroz Mazo and Nhar subsequently submitted phony PIP claims and bodily injury claims to Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and ELCO Administrative Service for payment for “pain and suffering” sustained during the “staged” accident. It is charged that Roman, Hernandez, Diaz, Quiroz Mazo and Nhar sought medical treatment for the “accident.” More than $31,000 in PIP and bodily injury claims was paid to the defendants as a result of submitting claims for the “staged” accident.

On July 21, Bula pleaded guilty to a criminal Accusation before Passaic County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Clark to Health Care Claims Fraud and theft by deception. Bula admitted the accident was staged. Bula is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 14, 2005.

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