TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor announced today that a Passaic County woman has been charged with insurance fraud and other offenses in an alleged scheme to steal more than $175,000 from the insurance annuity policies of two individuals.
Vashanta Stroud-Bennett, 45, of Paterson, was charged with second-degree insurance fraud, second-degree theft by deception, second-degree impersonation, third-degree impersonation and third-degree attempted theft by deception. The charges were contained in an indictment handed up by a State Grand Jury in Trenton on February 4.
According to the indictment, on or between July 23 and August 1 of 2017, Stroud-Bennett obtained personal identifying information pertaining to two individuals and assumed their identities in an attempt to obtain money from their insurance annuity policies.
In the first case, Stroud-Bennett allegedly impersonated policy owner “P.C.” in two withdrawal requests submitted to Voya Insurance and Annuity Company, also known as Voya Financial. The first request sought partial distribution of $78,900 from P.C.’s annuity policy. The second request sought a partial distribution of $93,400 from the same policy. Stroud-Bennett also allegedly impersonated P.C. in an email to Voya Financial, and in a conversation with a company representative in connection with the distribution requests. Stroud-Bennett obtained more than $75,000 from the account, according to the indictment.
In the second case, Stroud-Bennett allegedly impersonated policy owner “L.C.” in a withdrawal request submitted to Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America. The request sought a partial withdrawal of $22,000 from L.C.’s annuity policy. She also allegedly impersonated L.C. in a phone conversation with an Allianz representative in connection with the withdrawal request.
The charges are merely accusations 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 Jennifer Menjivar presented the case to the grand jury. Detectives James Mahady and Justin Callahan coordinated the investigation.
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 a conviction for insurance fraud.