Katreecea Cline, 46, and her husband Stevie Mitchell, 44, of Elmwood Park were named in a seven-count state grand jury indictment. Cline was charged with two counts of second-degree insurance fraud, third-degree theft by deception, third-degree attempted theft by deception, and fourth-degree forgery. Both were charged with second-degree fraud in insolvency and fourth-degree unsworn falsification to authorities.
The indictment alleges that from October 2012 and November 2013, Cline submitted property damage insurance applications to United States Automobile Association (USAA) claiming her Veterans Place apartment in Elmwood Park, her son’s dorm room in Harrison (Hudson County), N.J., and property stored at her brother’s home in Keansburg, N.J. were damaged as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Over the course of the claim, USAA paid Cline a total of $53,800, the maximum allowable benefit for property damage. On May 9, 2013, Cline claimed her RV was broken into and numerous pieces of construction equipment and tools stored in the RV, and valued at approximately $20,000, had been stolen. On November 25, 2012, Cline and Mitchell signed a United States Bankruptcy Court voluntary petition for bankruptcy. In that application, the couple asserted that they had $209,874 in debt to various creditors and $36, 905 in assets. On February 22, 2013, a federal bankruptcy court judge accepted Cline and Mitchell’s petition and discharged approximately $175,000 worth of debt.
During OIFP’s investigation, detectives determined Cline’s insurance claims were fictitious and fraudulent documents were submitted to USAA in support of the claims regarding property damage of her home, her son’s dorm room, property stored at brother’s home, and construction equipment stored in the RV. In addition, detectives discovered that Cline and Mitchell failed to report that they had property interest in the outcome of the USAA claims regarding Superstorm Sandy in their November 25, 2012 bankruptcy application. They also failed to state that they had a bank account with financial institution Metabank. OIFP is alleging the total fraud to be in excess of $230,000.
“It is extremely deplorable that this couple took advantage of a natural disaster, one that caused such tremendous loss for so many victims, to cheat their insurance company,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “This type of conduct drives up the cost of insurance premiums for honest homeowners.”
“What this indictment alleges is that this couple have proven themselves to be deceitful, going to great lengths to bilk their insurance company thousands of dollars following Superstorm Sandy and lying about their bankruptcy request,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi. “We are working aggressively to combat this type of fraud.”
The charges announced today are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while 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 Colin Keiffer presented the case to the grand jury. Detectives Kahlil McGrady and Kristi Procaccino conducted the investigation with assistance from Detective Sgt. Jarek Pyrzanowski, Detective Megan Flanagan and Detective Terrence Buie.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi noted that 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 at www.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.