A Queens police officer has found himself on the other side of the law as he faces charges of insurance fraud — along with other crimes — in connection to his car which he initially reported stolen and was later found burning in New Jersey.
Former cop Madalin Niculae, 28, of Queens, who served in the NYPD since 2010 and was assigned to the 108th Precinct, is currently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on a criminal complaint charging him with perjury, insurance fraud, making an apparently sworn false statement, making a punishable false written statement and falsely reporting an incident.
If convicted of the highest charge, Niculae, who was suspended from his position Thursday, faces up to two-and-one-third to seven years in prison.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, on Aug. 3, 2014, at about 11:23 p.m. the Jersey City Police and Fire Departments responded to a vehicle fire at Jersey Avenue and 15th Street. The incident was suspected as arson involving a 2010 Acura TL registered to Niculae.
Niculae then allegedly fraudulently told a Jersey City fire official that he had parked his car near his home at about 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 2, 2014, and that he first found the car missing the following day at 11 a.m. He notified police but said he did not file a police report until Aug. 4, 2014, because he had parked his car near a fire hydrant and thought it might have been towed.
In statements, reports and depositions filed with the NYPD and his insurance carrier GEICO, Niculae provided similar fraudulent information surrounding the disappearance of his car even after facing warnings on police forms which state that false statements were punishable as a misdemeanor.
Niculae also made statements under oath when filing a statement with an insurance investigator, who told him that she had issues about the case. He then allegedly said he would consider withdrawing his insurance claim, which he later did.
While investigating the alleged stolen car, police attained the license plate reader records for the city’s highway, bridge and tunnel crossings for Aug. 2 to 4, 2014. The readers allegedly recorded Niculae’s vehicle crossing the Williamsburg Bridge just after midnight on Aug. 3, 2014, and Port Authority license plate readers caught the same car traveling to New Jersey via the Holland Tunnel just minutes later.
Records and call details for Niculae’s cellphones showed the phone was in Jersey City, near the site of the vehicle fire, at the estimated time of the discovery of the car, authorities said.
The former NYPD officer then later said in a statement to the district attorney investigator that he had driven the car to New Jersey via the Holland Tunnel on Aug. 2, 2014, and left it there in hopes that it would be stolen or vandalized. The next day he returned with another person, who he allegedly told he was having money problems and could not keep up with payment on the car. The other individual then offered to burn the car for Niculae, who stayed blocks away while the person left and returned a short time later saying that the vehicle had blown up.
“As a member of the police department, the defendant was sworn to uphold the law. Instead he allegedly chose to commit insurance fraud for his own personal gain,” Brown said.
Niculae appeared in Central Judicial Processing Court in Jersey City Thursday and was arraigned on an arson charge in relation to the burning of his car. He faces up to five to 10 years if convicted and was ordered held on $25,000 bail.
Holding dual citizenship, he was also ordered to surrender both his United States and Romanian passports.