Tag Archives: insurance fraud

Queens cop charged with insurance fraud for car fire: DA

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

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.


10 years after deadly staged accident, family wants Alice’s Law passed

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The family of the 71-year-old Queens woman killed 10 years ago in a staged car accident said bureaucratic delays have held up justice — and a proposed law to stiffen penalties in such cases.

“It should have passed,” said Daniel Ross, 56, of Bayside. “I don’t want another family to go through what we went through.”

His mother, Alice Ross, died in 2003 when her car was struck in Bellerose by another vehicle.

According to the district attorney, Waurd Demolaire of Brooklyn intentionally rammed his car into hers to collect insurance money under the state’s No-Fault Law. He was convicted of manslaughter and conspiracy in 2006 and released on probation last October.

“The perpetrator got off with a very reduced sentence, considering the fact that he murdered my sister,” said Alice’s brother, Don Peters. “Now he’s free to walk the streets of New York again.”

Legislation dubbed Alice’s Law has been proposed in the State Senate and Assembly. Both bills would impose tougher criminal penalties on people who engage in staged accidents. But legislators said failure to compromise on two different versions of the law has stalled the ratification process.

The Assembly wants to classify staging accidents to defraud insurance as a class E felony, the lowest felony offense. It carries a prison sentence of one to five years.

A bill passed in the State Senate would make the crime a class D felony and upgrade it to class B if the accident causes serious injury or death to another person. That could mean a prison sentence of five to more than 25 years.

“It’s continually frustrating that there seems to be a philosophical difference between the State Senate and Assembly,” said State Senator Tony Avella, a cosponsor of the Senate bill. “Increasing penalties for any sort of crime, [the Assembly] just won’t do it.”

Assemblymember David Weprin, a sponsor of the bill in the lower house, said he is optimistic that both houses will reach a compromise and get the legislation passed this year.

The legislature has less than one month to resolve differences and get one bill approved in both houses before the session ends June 20.

Last year, the State Senate passed its bill in March and sent it to the Assembly. But according to records, the Assembly’s amended bill reached the Senate on June 19 — too late for action by the upper house.

Alice’s Law was first proposed in 2007 and has been reintroduced every year since 2010.

“It’s been too long in coming,” said Peters, 78, of Saratoga Springs. “The process has been much too slow. I wish it would become law. I think it would be a very appropriate recognition of that anniversary.”

Daniel Ross showed The Courier a copy of a letter from authorities saying the man responsible for his mother’s untimely death was now free.

“That was murder,” he said. “It could have been anybody’s mother.”





Alice’s Law aims to stop accident fraud

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Nine years after a senseless crime, a local official and an activist group are advocating for legislation to finally speak for its victim.

On March 22, 2003, Alice Ross, a 71-year-old wife and grandmother, was killed at 82-51 Commonwealth Boulevard in Jamaica during a falsified auto accident — staged in an attempt by the perpetrators to collect money by filing fraudulent insurance claims.

Assemblymember David Weprin joined leaders of New Yorkers Stand Against Auto Insurance Fraud (NYSAIF) at the site of Ross’ accident on Friday, March 2 to call for the passage of “Alice’s Law,” legislation that hopes to amend punitive repercussions for those involved in staging a motor vehicle accident.

Under “Alice’s Law,” anyone convicted of intentionally creating a collision with the goal of committing insurance fraud or who acts as a third party by assembling a similar accident involving another could face punishment as a class D felony.

According to a representative from Weprin’s office, falsified auto accidents cost insurance companies and their providers nationwide around $1 billion annually.

Alice’s Law was initially proposed in 2007 and reintroduced in 2010, 2011 and 2012. So far, 34 members of the assembly have claimed their support.

Recent personal injury protection (PIP) studies conducted by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) looked at cases in 2010 where plaintiffs claimed losses for medical expenses, lost wages and other injury-related expenses. According to the study, similar injuries from auto accidents in the New York City area have risen by 70 percent over the last 10 years.

The average claim after an auto accident in the New York City metro area is $15,086 – more than twice the amount of the state’s average of $6,870.

Statewide, 23 percent of claims in the study appeared to involve abuse. Claims from the New York City metro area were more than four times as likely to involve apparent abuse.

According to the study, Brooklyn and Queens are hotspots, with more than 52 percent of claims involving alleged abuse.