N.J. Inmate Finds Way to Get in More Trouble; Charged with Auto Fraud

October 11, 2005

New Jersey Criminal Justice Director Vaughn McKoy announced that the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor has obtained an indictment charging a Passaic County inmate with conspiracy, insurance fraud, theft and tampering with public records for his role in an automobile insurance “give up” scam.

According to Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown, Serapio Paez, aka Benito Caballero aka Lorenzo Cruz, 50, currently incarcerated in the Passaic County jail awaiting sentencing on federal drug related charges, was charged with conspiracy and insurance fraud (both 2nd degree), as well as theft by deception and tampering with public records or information (both 3rd degree). If convicted of all charges, Paez faces more than 20 years in state prison and a criminal fine of more than $300,000. Paez also faces the possible civil insurance fraud fines.

The Hudson County Grand Jury indictment alleges that between March 10 and July 1, 2004, Paez conspired to submit a fraudulent auto insurance theft claim. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor determined that Paez took possession of a 1999 Jeep Cherokee, valued at more than $10,900. According to the indictment, Paez then turned the vehicle over to another individual with the purpose to destroy it so that the owner could submit an auto theft claim.

The investigation reportedly further revealed that on March 18, 2004, Esther Mazara, 42, Union City, Hudson County, falsely reported to the Jersey City Police Department that the Jeep Cherokee had been stolen and subsequently submitted a phony auto theft claim to the Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company. Metropolitan Property and Casualty paid Mazara more than $10,900 for the claim. The Jeep Cherokee was found burning in Philadelphia before the date the owner reported she last saw the Jeep.

On Dec. 14, 2004, Mazara pleaded guilty before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Vazaquez to a criminal Accusation filed by the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, charging her with insurance fraud. Mazara was ordered in April 2005 to serve 50 hours of community service, two years probation and pay restitution and penalties.

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