Seven Sentenced in New York for $1M Insurance Fraud Scheme

December 16, 2008

Four insurance adjusters and three contractors were ordered to forfeit $248,000 after pleading guilty to kickbacks made possible by inflating insurance claims on properties in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Investigators said the contractors inflated the cost of repairs so they could keep a portion of the proceeds themselves and give part of the money to adjusters. In some cases, adjusters accepted such things as golf outings, golf equipment or dinners.

The adjusters would then approve the inflated estimates as reasonable and pass them on for payment to Chubb & Son, a division of Federal Insurance Co. Three of the four adjusters implicated were employed by Chubb. Investigators said the kickbacks were sometimes initiated by the contractors and at other times by the adjusters. The kickbacks are believed to have totaled $1 million and involved claims on approximately 10 properties. In addition to the court-ordered forfeitures, contractors have already returned $600,000 to Chubb.

The three Chubb adjusters pleaded guilty to felony criminal bribe receiving and insurance fraud, and were each sentenced to five years’ probation. Additionally, Stephen Curtis, 51, of Staten Island was ordered to forfeit $70,000. James Cassino, 31, of Brooklyn, was ordered to forfeit $60,000. And John Occhiogrosso, 51, of Brooklyn, forfeited $13,000.

The fourth adjuster, Joseph Fonte, 45, of Staten Island, is a public adjuster with no affiliation to Chubb. He was granted a one-year conditional discharge and ordered to forfeit $5,000 after pleading guilty to two counts of commercial bribery.

Contractors Arie Malina, 57, of Valley Stream, forfeited $75,000 and was sentenced to five years’ probation for pleading guilty to insurance fraud and commercial bribing. Contractor Fabio Scala, 34, of 33 New York, forfeited $25,000, pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and commercial bribery. Contractor Sergio Almada, 37, of Montclair, N.J., was granted conditional discharge for pleading guilty to falsifying business records.

Two other men await sentencing

A fifth adjuster, John Brady, 45, of Queens, is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 13. He has pleaded guilty to commercial bribe receiving. The sentencing of another contractor, Joseph Trovato, 50, of Queens, was adjourned until Feb. 3. He has pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and commercial bribery.

The nine men were arrested after Chubb noticed irregularities in claims involving the adjusters and contractors. At the same time, the company had been contacted by another contractor who was not implicated in the schemes. That contractor complained that he had been approached by Curtis who wanted “10 points,” or $3,750, as a kickback for a $37,500 repair project he was working on at a Park Avenue condominium.

Chubb asked the New York State Insurance Department and the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to look into the case after its own investigation that included re-inspecting the properties tied to the claims.

Four of the adjusters, Curtis, Occhiogrosso, Cassino and Brady, were hired by Chubb after they had been employed previously by another insurance company. Curtis resigned from Chubb when the investigation began. The other three Chubb adjusters were fired. Fonte was a public adjuster, hired by individual consumers filing insurance claims with Chubb.

The adjusters are all licensed by the Insurance Department. Their licenses are subject to revocation as a result of the criminal convictions.

Source: New York Insurance Department

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