TRENTON – A former Union County insurance agent has been charged with assuming the identities of former clients to fraudulently apply for new life insurance policies in order to collect commissions on the policies.
Marta Cristina Cunha, 36, of Union Township, was charged with second-degree insurance fraud, second-degree identity theft, and third-degree theft by deception in the alleged scheme that involved at least seven individuals she submitted policies for while working with American Income Life Insurance Company (“American Income”).
According to the indictment handed up yesterday, after Cunha left American Income she used various insureds’ personal information she had obtained while working as an agent for American Income and applied for new policies for these individuals with American Memorial Life Insurance Company (“American Memorial”) without the authorization and knowledge of these individuals. The alleged scheme earned Cunha about $6,292 in commissions.
“We allege that instead of working to solicit new clients, as honest insurance agents do, this defendant tried to make some easy money by exploiting former clients who trusted her with their personal information,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We will not allow shady agents to victimize their clients and undermine the integrity of the insurance system for their own personal gains.”
“The public places a great deal of trust in licensed insurance agents and expects them to adhere to high ethical standards,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “My office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute thefts by insurance agents.”
According to prosecutors, American Income paid Cunha about $1,752 in commissions and bonuses for policies she submitted on behalf of about eight individuals between December 2012 and November 2014. After Cunha left American Income and began working with American Memorial in April 2015, she contacted American Income and impersonated or pretended to be several insureds in order to direct the insurance company to change an insured’s contact information, cancel an insured’s policy, and/or change an insured’s billing method, prosecutors said. Cunha allegedly subsequently used the information of those insureds to fraudulently apply for about seven policies with American Memorial.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000; third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000.
Deputy Attorney General Kelly Levy presented the case to the grand jury. Detectives Suzanna Lopez, Janessa Jones, and Sandra Ordonez, and investigator Greg Nolan coordinated the investigation.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Iu 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 atwww.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.
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