Staten Island woman among 16 charged in alleged no-fault insurance scam


staten island fraud perpsA Staten Island woman was among 16 suspects who hoped to score insurance paydays by staging vehicular crashes in the borough and Brooklyn, said authorities.

No-fault insurance paid more than $18,000 in medical bills for phony injury claims submitted on behalf of Kanona Martinez, 41, according to state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. Ms. Martinez’s claim stemmed from a fake accident on Nov. 28, 2009, on Park Place and Brooklyn Avenue in Brooklyn, said court papers.

In all, the defendants submitted fraudulent claims totaling almost $332,000 for six bogus accidents, said Schneiderman. Five incidents occurred in Brooklyn and one happened on Staten Island, he said.

Prosecutors said the episodes took place between Oct. 29, 2009, and June 29, 2011.

Ms. Martinez, of Port Richmond, is the only borough resident criminally charged.

The arrests were the culmination of a joint, ongoing probe into phony accidents and no-fault insurance fraud by the A.G., New York City Police Department and the state Department of Financial Services.

“This all-too-common staged-accident scheme puts innocent lives in danger so perpetrators can rip-off the system to make a quick buck,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Breaking up these criminal operations means safer streets and a fairer market for consumers whose insurance premiums skyrocket as a result of this kind of fraud.”

Ms. Martinez was involved in the first incident.

The Heberton Avenue resident was driving a rented car and crashed into an unsuspecting livery driver’s cab, said Schneiderman. She and one of her passengers, Kevin Simington, 23, of Brooklyn, claimed to be hurt, the A.G. said.

Ms. Martinez alleged neck, lower back and left knee injuries, and more than $24,000 in no-fault claims were filed on her behalf, said court records. The insurance carrier paid $18,375 on those claims, court documents state.

When recently confronted by police, Ms. Martinez allegedly admitted to the ruse.

She told cops that a man named “Clarence” offered her money to rent a car, participate in a staged accident and get medical treatment, said court papers. “Clarence” told Ms. Martinez he knew she had been hurt on the job and that she could receive treatment for those injuries if she participated in the scam, court records said. Those document don’t say where she worked.

Ms. Martinez followed through, rented a car, picked up Simington and another passenger and “intentionally” struck a livery cab after it picked up two passengers, said court papers. Afterward, she received medical treatment at a clinic in Brooklyn where “Clarence” told her to go, court filings said.

She was charged in Brooklyn Criminal Court with two counts of falsifying business records and single counts of insurance fraud and grand larceny, all felonies. Ms. Martinez also is accused of conspiracy and could face a maximum of two and a third to seven years in prison if convicted of the insurance fraud or grand larceny counts.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Ms. Martinez, who is free on her own recognizance, vehemently denied the allegations and said she didn’t know the other suspects.

The Staten Island incident occurred on Oct. 29, 2009, at the intersection of Victory Boulevard and Van Duzer Street, Stapleton, said Schneiderman.

David Ross, 29, of upstate Binghamton, was driving a 2002 Ford Suburban and intentionally reversed gear and plowed into a livery cab that was picking up a passenger, said court papers. The passenger entering the cab was a co-conspirator named Clarence McCollum, court documents said.

Ross and his passenger, Michael McAtee, 29, of Manhattan, alleged bogus injuries and received a combined $10,000 in no-fault medical payments, said court papers.

They were charged with the same crimes as Ms. Martinez.

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