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For Immediate Release:
For Further Information:
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May 5, 2011

Office of The Attorney General
- Paula T. Dow, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Stephen J. Taylor, Director
Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor
- John Kennedy, Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor

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609-292-4791
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Mercer County Auto Body Repair Shop Owner Sentenced to State Prison for His Role in an Auto Repair Insurance Fraud Scam

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TRENTON - Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that a Mercer County auto body repair shop owner was sentenced to state prison today for his role in an auto repair insurance scam. The auto body repair shop is no longer in business.

According to Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor John Kennedy, Robert Buckingham, 55, of Millstone, was sentenced to three years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Edward M. Neafsey in Mercer County. The sentence was based on Buckingham’s guilty plea to second-degree conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, a charge contained in a July 17, 2007 state grand jury indictment.

In pleading guilty on March 1, 2010, Buckingham, the owner/operator of Robert Christopher Collision, an auto body repair facility which did business on Kuser Road in Hamilton Township, admitted that between April 2005 and July 2006, he conspired with employees of his company to over-bill insurance companies for the repair of two automobiles. Buckingham admitted, for example, that he had the frame of a damaged 2004 Cadillac Escalade repaired by welding in a section but billed the insurance company, and was subsequently paid, for the full replacement of the frame.

In August 2008, one of Buckingham’s employees, Paul Failla, 56, of Morganville, pleaded guilty to theft by deception and was subsequently sentenced.

An investigation by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor determined that Buckingham and his co-defendant billed insurance companies for auto repair work that they failed to complete. In addition, the defendants billed insurance companies for new auto repair parts when they utilized old parts, and billed the insurance companies to replace auto parts when they merely repaired the damaged auto parts. The defendants enhanced damage to cars brought to the repair facility so they could increase the amount of auto insurance repair claims.

Among the insurance companies to which false claims were submitted were New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company, Travelers Auto Insurance Company (formerly known as First Trenton Indemnity), Selective Insurance Company and Mercury Insurance Company. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Kennedy thanked the insurance companies for their assistance in this matter.

In settlement of the related asset forfeiture matter, Robert Christopher Associates, Inc., and Robert Buckingham have agreed to pay a total of $41,000, of which $16,195.31 will be applied to restitution owed by Robert Buckingham in the related criminal matter. In addition, $14,804.69 will be forfeited, and the defendants agreed to pay a civil administrative penalty of $10,000.

Detective Wendy Berg, Civil Investigator Frank Crosson, and Deputy Attorneys General Kristen Harberg, Christine Hoffman, and Carol Stanton Meier and Former Deputy Attorney General John J. Higgins were assigned to the investigation. Deputy Attorney General Cheryl A. Maccaroni represented the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor at the sentencing. Higgins represented the state at the guilty plea hearing. Harberg presented the case to the grand jury. The National Insurance Crime Bureau assisted with the investigation.

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