|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that the primary owner and operator of a third-party insurance administrator has been sentenced to seven years in state prison after being convicted at trial of stealing approximately half a million dollars from a trust fund that administered health insurance policies and prescription coverage for hundreds of employees and their families.
Catarina Young, 48, of Metuchen, was sentenced yesterday (Jan. 9) to seven years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Dennis Nieves in Middlesex County. On Oct. 29, 2013, Young was convicted by a Middlesex County jury of second-degree theft by unlawful taking and second-degree misapplication of entrusted property or property of a government or financial institution. The conviction followed a five-week trial before Judge Nieves. The charges were contained in a Dec. 15, 2011 Middlesex County grand jury indictment obtained by Deputy Attorney General T.J. Harker.
Deputy Attorney General Harker, lead counsel, and Tom Tresansky, co-counsel, tried the case for the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.
"Young stole nearly a half a million dollars through a scheme that blatantly disregarded the welfare of more than 1,000 employees and their families by leaving them without much-needed health care coverage,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. “Such criminal conduct will not be tolerated in the state of New Jersey.”
“The prison sentence imposed today reflects the severity of this defendant’s crime,” Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi said. “The Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor will continue to seek lengthy prison sentences for those who choose to line their own pockets at the expense of hard-working New Jerseyans.”
“These crimes represent a breach of the trust placed in the defendant by the affected healthcare plans,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi. “This sentence sends a clear message to those who would steal from plans: you will be held accountable.”
“Today’s sentencing underscores the Office of Inspector General’s commitment to safeguard plan assets from those who embezzle employee contributions that are intended to fund vital health benefits,” Scott S. Dahl, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor, said. “The OIG will continue to work closely with our federal and state law enforcement partners to investigate these types of crimes, which harm workers and their families.”
At the time the crimes occurred, Young was a partial owner of the now-defunct Elite Benefits Corp. (Elite), which was located in Middlesex County. Elite administered insurance plans on behalf of third-parties, including the Multi-Skilled Employees & Employer Welfare Trust Fund (Fund), an organization consisting of several union employers and hundreds of employees.
By convicting Young, the Middlesex County jury determined that between Nov. 17, 2003 and Dec. 26, 2006, Young, as fiduciary of the Fund, deposited 86 checks and 16 wire transfers totaling $462,341 belonging to the Fund into her personal bank accounts and, subsequently, used these stolen proceeds for her own purposes. The stolen proceeds were supposed to be used to purchase health insurance coverage and prescription coverage from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and Benecard, respectively. By stealing this money, Young’s actions resulted in the cancellation of a health insurance plan that insured more than 1,000 working people and their families.
Deputy Attorney General Harker and Sergeant Anthony Butler investigated the case. Deputy Attorneys General Harker and Tresansky, together with Detective Taryn Kong, tried this case in Middlesex County, with the assistance of Detective Wendy Berg. Financial Analyst Kelly Celenza and Sergeant Butler, as well as handwriting expert Detective William Davis and Investigator Sheila Young-Golden (no relation to the defendant), all with the Office of the Attorney General, were among the 27 witnesses who testified at trial. The five week trial also involved more than 100 exhibits that were admitted into evidence.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi thanked Criminal Coordinator Angelo Gaglias, Senior Investigator Michael Briglia, and Senior Investigator Carmela V. Pagano, all with the United States Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, and Special Agent Ani White, of the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor, for their assistance in the investigation. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi also thanked Investigator Young-Golden, with the Department of Banking and Insurance, for her assistance in the case, as well as the representatives of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Benecard who assisted in the investigation and who testified at trial. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi further thanked the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office for the logistical support they provided during the five-week trial.