TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Ken Kobylowski announced today that a Monmouth County public adjusting company pleaded guilty and has been sentenced for submitting fraudulent insurance claims in an attempt to defraud New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) out of more than $15,000.
Northeast Claims Group, LLC, located in Long Branch, pleaded guilty last week to an accusation charging it with second-degree insurance fraud. As a result of the guilty plea, the company has agreed to be dissolved and to the revocation of its New Jersey public adjuster license. In addition, the company agreed to pay a $7,500 criminal fine. Joseph Shammah, 40, of West Long Branch, Northeast Claims Group’s sole owner and member, also agreed to the revocation of his public adjuster’s license. Shammah was admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program, which does not include a guilty plea.
Shammah was charged as a result of an undercover “sting” investigation dubbed “Operation Home Makeover.” The investigation, which took place in 2012, was aimed at exposing fraudulent insurance practices employed by public adjusters in their negotiations with insurance companies throughout New Jersey. A public adjuster is an intermediary between an insured and his or her insurance company who is hired by an insured after an event of loss causes damage to the insured’s covered property.
Shammah acted as Northeast Claim Group’s representative for the plea and sentencing. Acting on behalf of Northeast Claims Group, Shammah admitted that between April 1 and Aug. 3, 2012, the company made false statements regarding the damage in order to obtain approximately $15,452 from New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) to which it was not entitled.
The Department of Banking and Insurance signed a consent order revoking the public adjuster license for Shammah and Northeast Claims Group, LLC. The Department also levied $8,000 in civil penalties and surcharges.
Deputy Attorneys General Cheryl A. Maccaroni and T.J. Harker, and Detectives Wendy Berg, Michael Rasar and Christine Sullivan were assigned to the case. Sgt. Jarek Pyrzanowski and Detective Natalie Brotherston also assisted in the investigation. Deputy Attorney General Joseph E. Snow, under the supervision of Section Chief Raymond R. Chance, III, of the New Jersey Division of Law, handled the civil matter. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi thanked NJM for referring the matter to the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor and for working with the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor throughout the course of this investigation. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi also thanked Acting Regional Superintendent Joseph P. Winnicki, Central Regional Office, with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry and the staff of Washington Crossing State Park. Additional investigative assistance was provided by Sgt. Patrick Kendig and Detective Joseph Saiia of the Division of Criminal Justice’s Electronic Surveillance Unit.