Four men have been been charged with stealing as much as $500,000 in an insurance-fraud scheme that stretched the length of New Jersey and reached into eastern Pennsylvania, officials said today.
Between October 2001 and October 2004, the men stole insurance premiums and other money using a variety of ploys, according to an indictment handed up in New Jersey Superior Court yesterday.
The four men allegedly accepted insurance premium money from small businesses in order to supply commercial insurance, but did not send the money along to insurance companies. Many of the small businesses defrauded were taxi and limousine services, some of which were left without valid insurance, according to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.
"These are serious issues, and they present problems for the people who were victimized," said Marshall McKnight, spokesman for the New Jersey Banking and Insurance Department. "We take it seriously."
Charged were Thomas Hurd, 51, formerly of Bensalem; William Wolnski, 63, of Bayville, N.J.; Christopher Melilli, 33, of Philadelphia; and Terrence Downs, 60, of Bensalem.
They face a variety of counts, including second-degree conspiracy and second-degree misapplication of entrusted property. If convicted, they could receive fines and jail time.
A March 2004 arrest warrant out of New Jersey alleged that Hurd and Melilli owned and operated three insurance agencies in New Jersey and Pennsylvania: T.I.C. Brokerage and the Hurd Agency in Bensalem, and T.I.C. Brokerage in Bayville.
The New Jersey Banking and Insurance Department in 2006 revoked the licenses of Hurd, the Hurd Agency and T.I.C. Brokerage in Bayville and fined Melilli for selling insurance without a state license. Hurd was ordered to pay restitution. Wolnski was suspended from practice in 2005.
Of the four men, Downs is currently licensed as an insurance agent in Pennsylvania, said a state Insurance Department representative. Officials said there would likely be an investigation of Downs.
Hurd has already pleaded guilty to charges in Pennsylvania in a fraud case that authorities said involved more than $1 million.
In a 2007 news release, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office alleged that Hurd submitted false and misleading information to premium finance companies and gained financing for nonexistent or prematurely cancelled policies.
He is now living in a halfway house in Philadelphia.