TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor announced today that a Hudson County woman has been charged with stealing more than $46,000 by fraudulently collecting her mother’s worker’s compensation dependency benefits for nearly three years after she died.
Wanda Berry, 53, of Jersey City, was indicted on charges of second-degree insurance fraud and third-degree theft by deception in an indictment handed up by a state grand jury in Trenton on Thursday.
Berry, whose mother died in November 2014, fraudulently claimed to New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group (“NJM”) that her mother was alive in order to continue collecting the $1,400 monthly insurance benefit her mother had been receiving.
“We allege that Berry used lies and deceit to illegally keep her mother’s monthly benefit checks coming for years after her death,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will not allow individuals to manipulate and undermine the insurance system to satisfy their selfish greed.”
“Cashing benefit checks meant for someone else is stealing,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Tracy M. Thompson. “This indictment sends a message that anyone caught engaging in this kind of insurance fraud faces serious charges.”
According to the indictment, in 2015 Berry falsely represented to NJM representatives that her mother was alive and living in a nursing home under a doctor’s care. In 2016 she falsely represented that her mother was alive in hospice care, and provided a fraudulent doctor’s note to support that false claim, according to the indictment.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. 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 Crystal Callahan presented the case to the grand jury. Detective Amy Carson coordinated the investigation. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Thompson thanked NJM for referring the matter to OIFP.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Thompson 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.
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