Angel Fontaina, 45, of Jersey City, was taken into custody three days after a state grand jury charged him with theft by deception, identity theft, and passing bad checks, all in the second degree. Fontaina was also charged with three counts of fourth-degree forgery in the alleged scam that virtually drained his mother’s two fixed annuity accounts with New York Life Insurance Company.
The state alleges that Fontaina, who lives with his mother, siphoned money from the accounts through 10 withdrawals made between June 2014 and October 2014.
The first withdrawal of $35,000 was made by submitting a fraudulent withdrawal form to the New York Life office, the state alleges. The other nine withdrawals – which ranged from $10,001 to $32,258 – were allegedly made via phone calls in which Fontaina pretended to be his mother. The 10 withdrawals totaled $225,927 and the money was directly deposited into Fontaina’s bank account, the state alleges.
New York Life initiated an investigation into the series of suspicious withdrawals. They referred the case to the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor after discovering that Fontaina allegedly withdrew the money without his mother’s knowledge or consent.
“Stealing from vulnerable senior citizens is always a despicable crime, but Fontaina allegedly stooped even lower by stealing from his own elderly mother,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “These allegations, if proven, would put him among a very low class of criminals.”
The state alleges that Fontaina promised to return the money to the accounts but the check he wrote to return the money was bad.
“Angel Fontaina allegedly wiped out the lion’s share of his mother’s life savings,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “That kind of callous, criminal greed will not be tolerated by this office.”
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; fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Deputy Attorney General Michael Locke presented the case to the grand jury. Detective Taryn Seidner coordinated the investigation with assistance from Detectives Natalie Brotherston, Matthew Armstrong, and Ryan Kirsh. Investigators Richard Matarante and Ching Graham from New York Life Insurance Company assisted in 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 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.