- Acting Attorney General Ricardo Solano Jr.
and Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni
announced that four men, including two former
New Jersey insurance agents, pleaded guilty
today for their roles in a scheme to steal
hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance
to Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Riza
Dagli, former New Jersey-licensed insurance
agent Thomas Hurd, 53, of Bensalem, Pa., pleaded
guilty to second-degree conspiracy. The state
will recommend a sentence of three years in
Downs, 61, of Bensalem, pleaded guilty to
third-degree conspiracy; William Wolnski,
65, of Bayville, also a former New Jersey
insurance agent, and Christopher Melilli,
35, of Philadelphia pleaded guilty to third-degree
attempted theft by deception. The state will
recommend a probationary sentence for each
of these defendants.
defendants were charged in a June 9, 2008
state grand jury indictment.
of the defendants pleaded guilty before Superior
Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez, Jr., in Mercer
County. Judge Jimenez scheduled sentencing
for March 17.
Wolnski, Mellili, and Downs owned, operated,
controlled or were associated with two insurance
agencies, T.I.C. Brokerage and Hurd Insurance
Agency, both of which were operated in Bensalem,
pleading guilty, Hurd admitted that between
Oct. 1, 2001, and Oct.10, 2004, he accepted
insurance premium money from small businesses,
including taxi and limousine companies, in
order to supply commercial insurance, but
did not remit the insurance premium money
to the insurance company, stealing it instead.
In some cases, this left the customers with
invalid insurance or no insurance. An investigation
by the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor
determined that Hurd, through the scheme,
stole more than $322,200.
admitted that between Oct. 22, 2003, and Sept.
5, 2004, he conspired with Hurd to solicit
insurance to small businesses, including taxi
and limousine companies, where the customers
did not receive the insurance, and Hurd, retained
the insurance premiums.
and Wolnski admitted that between Aug. 19,
2003, and Sept. 24, 2004, they attempted to
solicit insurance to small businesses, including
taxi and limousine companies, where the customers
did not receive the insurance, and Hurd retained
the insurance premiums.
Matthew Armstrong, Analyst Bethany Schussler
and Deputy Attorney General Paul D. Santangini
were assigned to the investigation. Santangini
represented the Office of Insurance Fraud
Prosecutor at the guilty plea hearings. Former
Assistant Attorney General Lewis Korngut presented
the case to the state grand jury.
The Department of Banking and Insurance routinely
assists the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor
with the investigation and prosecution of
licensed insurance agents. This assistance
enables the state to coordinate criminal investigations
and prosecutions with any imposition of licensing
sanctions in order to protect the public.
Fraud Prosecutor Dagli 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
1-877-55-FRAUD or visiting the Web
State regulations permit an award to be paid
to an eligible person who provides information
that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction
for insurance fraud.
Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor was established
by the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction
Act of 1998. The office is the centralized
state agency that investigates and prosecutes
both civil and criminal insurance fraud, as
well as Medicaid fraud.