ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. -- An Elmwood Park couple scammed insurance companies out of $230,000 with bogus claims of Superstorm Sandy damage to their apartment, the woman's son's dorm room and property she stored at her brother's Jersey Shore home, a state grand jury has charged.
Katreecea Cline, 46, and her husband Stevie Mitchell, 44, also filed a false bankruptcy application, acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said this afternoon.
A seven-count indictment returned in Trenton today charges Cline with insurance fraud, theft and forgery and both of them with fraud and unsworn falsification, he said.
An investigation by the state Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) determined that Cline collected $53,800, the maximum allowed for property damage, for a series of claims to the United States Automobile Association (USAA) from October 2012 to November 2013, Hoffman said.
These included claims that an RV had been broken into and construction equipment stolen.
On Nov. 25, 2012, Cline and Mitchell signed a U.S. Bankruptcy Court voluntary petition for bankruptcy, the attorney general said.
"In that application, the couple asserted that they had $209,874 in debt to various creditors and $36,905 in assets," Hoffman said. "On February 22, 2013, a federal bankruptcy court judge accepted Cline and Mitchell’s petition and discharged approximately $175,000 worth of debt."
Cline and Mitchell "failed to report that they had property interest in the outcome of the USAA claims regarding Superstorm Sandy in their November 25, 2012 bankruptcy application," he added. "They also failed to state that they had a bank account with financial institution Metabank.
“It is extremely deplorable that this couple took advantage of a natural disaster, one that caused such tremendous loss for so many victims, to cheat their insurance company,” Hoffman said. “This type of conduct drives up the cost of insurance premiums for honest homeowners.”
Deputy Attorney General Colin Keiffer presented the case to the grand jury. Detectives Kahlil McGrady and Kristi Procaccino conducted the investigation with assistance from Detective Sgt. Jarek Pyrzanowski, Detective Megan Flanagan and Detective Terrence Buie.
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