December 15, 2017

NJ Man Indicted for Allegedly Faking Workplace Accident to Get Insurer to Pay Over $500k

Trenton, NJ – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) recently announced that a Perth Amboy man was indicted for allegedly faking an accident at his job site to get his insurance to cover the half-million dollar cost of medical treatment for injuries he had suffered prior to his employment. In addition, the defendant accepted approximately $55,803 in temporary disability payments for two years following the faked accident, though he was working under-the-table at a Keyport auto body shop. Also included in the indictment are charges that the man stole approximately $16,700 from the bank accounts of that auto body shop during his term of employment.

Vinny Curbelo, 31, was charged by the grand jury with second-degree health care claims fraud, second-degree theft by deception, second-degree attempted theft by deception, second-degree insurance fraud, second-degree computer criminal activity, third-degree theft by deception and third-degree theft by unlawful taking.

“The defendant allegedly staged his accident by pretending to suffer a fall, thus putting his employer’s insurer on the hook for treatment for an injury that he had suffered months before he was employed,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “These alleged crimes were greedy and dishonest and were meant to shift responsibility for the cost of his medical treatment to someone else.”

“Medical and disability insurance exist to help employees at the time they require care or have found themselves to be in a situation where they cannot work,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi. “The defendant allegedly sought to exploit these safety nets to maximize his financial position.”

In May 2010, Curbelo became an employee of DCH Honda, a car dealership in Old Bridge. On January 18, 2011, during normal working hours, Curbelo allegedly laid down next to a patch of ice in the parking lot of his employer, called for assistance from his fellow employees, and claimed that he had slipped on the ice and severely injured his back. Based upon this claim, Curbelo received extensive medical treatment on his back, including at least three major surgeries, valued at approximately $527,873, of which approximately $140,213 was paid by the car dealership’s insurer, Gallagher Bassett. OIFP believes he had first injured his back in March 2010 while he was unemployed.

In addition, Curbelo claimed his injuries made him unable to work and thus received from Gallagher Bassett approximately 49 bi-weekly workers compensation temporary disability payments in the amount of approximately $55,803 from August 2011 to September 2013. However, from approximately late 2011 through early 2013, he was employed at Dawn’s Auto body in Keyport and paid off the books to allegedly ensure that his workers compensation payments would not be interrupted. While employed at Dawn’s Auto body, he allegedly used his access to the company’s bank account and stole $16,700 by making various electronic payments for personal items and also to make payments to the credit card of his girlfriend.

During his employment with Dawn’s Auto Body, the defendant is alleged to have admitted to the owners on separate occasions that he did not injure his back in January 2011 at DCH Honda, but that he had laid down next to a patch of ice in an area not in view of the dealership’s security cameras to make it appear as though he had slipped in order to obtain coverage under his employer’s insurance. The owners terminated Curbelo’s employment in March 2013, after they allegedly discovered that he had stolen money from the company’s bank account.

Deputy Attorneys General T.J. Harker and Michael Clore and Detectives Wendy Berg and Grace Rocca coordinated the investigation.

The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000.

Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi 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.

Source: NJ AG’s Office

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