Essex County Woman Pleads Guilty to Insurance Fraud in Scheme to Steal Luxury Used Vehicles
TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) today announced that an Essex County woman has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining insurance identification cards as part of a scheme to steal luxury used vehicles from dealerships in New Jersey and New York.
Paige Hunt, 27, of Bloomfield, pleaded guilty to second-degree insurance fraud in a hearing before Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch in Union County yesterday. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the State will recommend that Hunt be sentenced to five years in state prison. Hunt is scheduled to be sentenced on December 20.
According to an investigation by the OIFP, Hunt fraudulently obtained at least nine auto insurance identification cards in order to provide proof of insurance when purchasing – by fraud – high-end used vehicles from dealerships. Hunt was able to drive off with at least three vehicles, for which no down payment was required at the time of purchase and for which no subsequent payments were ever made.
“The defendant used fictitious bank account information to con insurance providers into issuing the coverage for vehicles targeted in this elaborate fraud scheme,” said Attorney General Grewal. “She is now facing a significant prison sentence for her crime.”
“We will aggressively prosecute those who fraudulently manipulate the insurance system for personal gain,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Tracy M. Thompson. “They’re not just breaking the law; they’re driving up the price of premiums for honest policy holders.”
Between June 2016 and April 2017 Hunt fraudulently obtained at least nine auto insurance policies totaling more than $21,605 for coverage on late-model luxury used vehicles that included a Lexus SUV, two Honda Pilot Touring SUVs, a Mercedes Benz SUV, and five Mercedes Benz sedans.
Last year, in a case brought by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), Hunt and four others were charged with first-degree conspiracy and money laundering and other offenses in connection with a similar auto-theft-by-fraud scheme involving at least 25 vehicles between June 2012 and March 2016. In June, Hunt pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception. Under the terms of the plea agreement, which was contingent upon Hunt guilty plea in the OIFP case, DCJ will recommend Hunt be sentenced to five years in state prison to run concurrently with her OIFP sentence.
According to an investigation conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crime Bureau, the five defendants allegedly purchased or had others purchase vehicles on credit. They then allegedly forged letters purporting to be from the creditor stating that the loan had been satisfied, and used those letters to obtain new titles from the MVC without liens. The vehicles were subsequently sold without disclosing the liens.
Deputy Attorneys General Crystal Callahan and Robert Grady represented the State in the plea hearing. Detective Amy Carson and Investigator Gabrielle Kane conducted the investigation.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Thompson thanked investigators from CURE Insurance and Progressive Insurance, as well as the National Insurance Crime Bureau for the invaluable assistance.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Thompson noted that some important cases have started with anonymous tips. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at www.njinsurancefraud.org. State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.
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