Licensed Broker Charged with Insurance Fraud in Alleged Dollar-Van Scheme

Licensed Broker Charged with Insurance Fraud in Alleged Dollar-Van Scheme

PHOTO:  Suspect Andrew Teitelbaum operated his insurance agency out of this building on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills. Photo Courtesy of Google

Andrew Teitelbaum, a licensed insurance broker operating out of an office in Forest Hills, was charged last week with grand larceny, insurance fraud, and other crimes for allegedly writing policies for “dollar vans,” but claiming the high-risk vehicles were used for other purposes to get discounted rates.

Teitelbaum, 59, also allegedly put the insurance policies in the names of mystery “friends” instead of the actual drivers.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said that, according to the criminal complaint, an undercover investigator with the New York State Police on March 16, 2015 entered the defendant’s business, DG East Point Insurance Agency on Metropolitan Avenue and clearly stated he wanted insurance for a dollar van. The commonly referred to dollar vans are vehicles – some licensed, some not – that pick up passengers in neighborhoods underserved by trains, buses, and taxis. The drivers usually charge passengers a dollar or two. The investigator allegedly told the defendant he couldn’t afford to pay a lot. Teitelbaum allegedly wrote a policy stating that the van was used as a private passenger vehicle. The defendant is also alleged to have put the policy in the name of the investigator’s “friend.” This friend’s driver’s license was allegedly shown and the investigator signed the driver’s name. He left the business with a policy for $3,000 a year instead of $8,000.

Brown said the investigator revisited the defendant’s business on April 17, 2015, and again asked for insurance for a dollar van and to make a “friend” the actual driver. This time the defendant allegedly made the vehicle a commercial commuter van, listed the operator of the vehicle as the investigator’s “friend” and also offered an additional discount for completion of a safe driving course. The investigator stated he hadn’t taken the class, but the defendant allegedly handed him an attendance sheet to fill out and sign and told him a certificate would be mailed to him. The undercover investigator left the office with a $1,900 discounted premium.

Further investigation of business records revealed 13 other instances between August 8, 2011, and March 26, 2013, in which the defendant allegedly wrote policies for vehicles that were disguised on official documents as something other than dollar vans. Progressive Insurance Company, which held the policies, began receiving various insurance claims from individuals claiming they’d been passengers in dollar vans, according to the complaint.

Two people listed on the insurance documents as being the drivers of the vans denied they were the operators of the vehicles. One stated she had sought insurance from the defendant years earlier and did provide personal information to him. The other individual stated he’d never even met Teitelbaum. The loss to the insurance company totaled in excess of $50,000.

“While the direct victim in this case is an insurance company, everyone who pays for auto insurance is also victimized with higher premiums,” said Brown.

Teitelbaum was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Althea Drysdale on Nov. 4, on charges of second-degree larceny, second- and third-degree insurance fraud, third-degree grand larceny, second-degree forgery, first-degree identity theft, first-degree falsifying business records and first-degree scheme to defraud. He was released on his own recognizance and ordered to return to court on Nov. 25. If convicted, the defendant faces up to 15 years in prison.


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