A uniformed New York Police Department officer and five dispatchers are among those charged in a car insurance scam that authorities say compromised the personal information of 60,000 vehicle accident victims and tried to exploit people from low-income neighborhoods, authorities said Thursday.
An indictment charging 27 people was unsealed in Manhattan federal court, where 23 individuals arrested in Thursday morning made initial court appearances.
According to the indictment, the fraud's leaders funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2014 to NYPD employees, 911 operators, hospital workers and medical service providers who gave them personal information about individuals they could not otherwise get.
The confidential information was used to steer victims to medical clinics and lawyers in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere who allegedly paid kickbacks to leaders of the scheme, the indictment said.
Westchester District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino Jr. said a five-year investigation initiated by his office and the New York State Police exposed systemic flaws in no-fault insurance laws in New York and New Jersey.
"The nature of this fraud and bribery results in higher insurance premiums and unnecessary medical costs which impacts us all. Hopefully, this prosecution will act as a deterrent to those who seek to profit illegally by gaming the system," he said.
Under the no-fault insurance laws, motorists can count on insurance companies to pay claims automatically for certain accidents. The laws provide for insurance companies to often pay medical service providers directly for treatment to car accident victims, resolving claims without consideration of blame or fault for the accident.
Authorities said the leaders of the scheme exploited the laws by paying as much as $4,000 cash monthly to up to 50 people who worked at hospitals, the NYPD and other entities. They said the payoffs were for confidential information that would enable the scam's leaders to contact accident victims and convince them to go to favored medical clinics and lawyers.
From a "Call Center" in Brooklyn, 10 to 15 workers called accident victims and claimed to be from an organization affiliated with the New York Department of Transportation, the indictment said.
The workers claimed they were calling to protect victims from people who obtain victims' information illegally and mislead victims into seeking treatment with certain providers, prosecutors said.