NEW YORK, NY – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced the conviction of Jose E. Urena, a New York City police officer assigned to the NYPD’s 25th Precinct, in relation to a scheme to defraud automobile insurance companies through a series of false claims. The scheme was designed to free him from financial responsibility for high-end vehicles he couldn’t afford, to pocket insurance money for personal use, to pay for repairs of pre-existing damage and to add expensive features to various vehicles.
“Gaming the system, whether to steal money or to avoid financial responsibility, is both unethical and illegal,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today’s conviction sends a clear message: there must be one set of rules for everyone, particularly those sworn to uphold the law.”
An investigation by the Attorney General’s Auto Insurance Fraud Unit revealed that Officer Urena submitted a series of four fraudulent auto insurance claims in two years, and filed false documents and gave false testimony in an attempt to conceal his crimes. In October 2014, Urena was arrested on an 11-count indictment in New York County. In November 2014, the Attorney General re-arrested Urena on a second indictment in Westchester County Court.
According to the indictments and statements made by prosecutors, in May 2012, Officer Urena falsely reported a claim to Nationwide Insurance Company that his leased 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML350 had been vandalized. After Nationwide paid $9,289.39 for the vandalism claim, Urena allegedly used the money to repair pre-existing damage to the car.
In January 2013, Officer Urena filed another fraudulent claim for the same Mercedes-Benz, according to today’s allegations. Just one day before his lease on the Mercedes was due to expire, when the car was almost $2,000 over the allowable mileage limit, and one week after cashing a $6,242.03 insurance check for repairs that were never made, Urena reported the car stolen. In fact, it had not been stolen; he had given the keys to an individual to dispose of the Mercedes so that he would not be responsible for any payments he owed. Just hours after the alleged theft took place, the Mercedes was found burned out in a warehouse district in the Bronx. As part of a subsequent Nationwide investigation into his theft claim, Urena signed a notarized Affidavit of Vehicle Theft, falsely swearing that his car had been stolen. In addition, Urena lied during a Nationwide deposition, stating that the Mercedes had been stolen and it had been in good condition when it had been allegedly stolen.
Just two months later, in March 2013, Urena was having trouble making payments on a financed 2007 Mercedes Benz S550. To free himself from financial responsibility for that car, Urena allegedly staged an accident by rear-ending a U-Haul truck, after which his insurance company, GEICO, wrote off the Mercedes as a total loss.
Urena’s fourth false claim occurred in July 2014, when he submitted a claim to GEICO after his 2011 Dodge Charger was involved in an accident. Urena inflated the amount of the claim to cover the cost of repairing pre-existing damage to the car and to make cosmetic improvements Urena used part of the resulting $7,503.97 insurance payout to add features to the car including a new grille, expensive tires and a painted roof.
Urena pleaded guilty today in Westchester County Court before the Honorable Justice Barry E. Warhit to one count of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (a Class E felony). He is scheduled to be sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison on October 22.
In addition to today’s plea, Urena is expected to plead guilty in New York County Supreme Court on August 4, 2015 to felony charges of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and Insurance Fraud in the Third Degree, in exchange for a sentence of 2 to 6 years in prison, to run concurrent to his sentence in Westchester County.
The Attorney General’s Office thanks the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Nationwide Insurance Company, GEICO Insurance Company, Mercedes Benz, and the New York State Department of Financial Services for their valuable assistance in this case.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Investigative Counsel Nina Sas with the assistance of Supervising Legal Analyst Paul Strocko and Legal Analyst Jonathan Hofman of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau’s Auto Insurance Fraud Unit. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary T. Fishman and Deputy Bureau Chiefs Stephanie Swenton and Meryl Lutsky. The Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.
The investigation was handled by Investigators Kevin McCann and Adrian Klapper, Supervising Investigators Natalie Shifrin and Edward Keegan and Deputy Chief of Investigations Leonard D’Alessandro of the Auto Insurance Fraud Unit. The Investigations Division is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.