TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced that a Perth Amboy man indicted last week in a half-million dollar disability insurance scam was charged again today by a state grand jury, this time for allegedly partnering with his girlfriend in a complex scheme to steal approximately $23,000 from a credit union and to defraud a car insurance company of more than $32,000 by forging documents related to a stolen SUV.
Vinny Curbelo, 31, and his girlfriend Nicole Stankovitz, 31, of Perth Amboy, were both charged with second-degree insurance fraud, two counts of third-degree theft by deception, third-degree money laundering, third-degree receiving stolen property, third-degree motor vehicle title offenses and third-degree removal or alteration of motor vehicle identification number or mark.
The indictment alleges that on December 20, 2012, a representative of a Paramus car dealership reported to the Paramus Police Department that a white 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee was stolen from the dealer’s lot sometime between August and November of that year. It is alleged that Curbelo purchased that car on the black market in August for an unknown sum, knowing that it had been stolen.
According to the indictment, on our around July 31 of that year, Curbelo and Stankovitz applied for a loan from Central Jersey Federal Credit Union (CJFCU) to purchase the vehicle. Following its underwriting procedure, CJFCU approved Stankovitz for a $23,000 loan on August 28, 2012, but company policy required the loan check to be made out to the titleholder/seller of the vehicle. The couple allegedly provided a fake Indiana title that listed a fake Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and an individual from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, as the seller.
After receiving that check in late August, Curbelo allegedly requested that a friend, who had the same name as the purported seller, deposit the $23,000 check into his bank account and then withdraw the same amount in cash and give the money back to Curbelo in exchange for $200, which the friend did. Around the same time, Stankovitz and Curbelo allegedly submitted a falsified Application for Certificate of Ownership to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) in order to obtain a New Jersey title to this vehicle, which they eventually did receive.
On or about the same date, the couple contacted GEICO and added the vehicle to their pre-existing GEICO policy. They added the vehicle under its false VIN and claimed that they owned the vehicle. On October 22, 2012, the defendants reported to the police that the vehicle was stolen from them and filed a claim for a theft loss with GEICO. After several months of communications between GEICO and the couple, GEICO settled the “theft” claim for the market value of the vehicle: $32,079.48. From that settlement, a payment was made to CJFCU for $23,897.61 to pay off the loan balance, and Stankovitz pocketed the rest, approximately $8,000. The car itself was recovered in Perth Amboy severely damaged from flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy.
“This was a carefully calculated scam that involved many layers of deceit and fraud,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “The defendants, in their greed, were not satisfied to steal loan money from the credit union by falsely representing that they were legitimately purchasing a car. They added to that criminal windfall by reporting the SUV stolen and reaping another payout from their insurer for a vehicle they did not lawfully own.”
“Given these two indictments, which are based on cases totally separate from each other, it appears Curbelo is a recidivist practitioner of insurance fraud,” Hoffman said.
“The defendants made off with tens of thousands of dollars by allegedly lying to both an insurance provider and a financial institution,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi. “These crimes do not just end up hitting the bottom line of the affected companies, they are also felt by consumers’ wallets.”
On Nov. 13, Curbelo was indicted for allegedly faking an accident at his job site to get his insurance to cover the half-million dollar cost of medical treatment for injuries he had suffered prior to his employment. In addition, the defendant accepted approximately $55,803 in temporary disability payments for two years following the faked accident, though it is alleged he was working under-the-table at a Keyport auto body shop. Also included in the indictment are charges that the man stole approximately $16,700 from the bank accounts of that auto body shop during his term of employment.
In May 2010, Curbelo became an employee of DCH Honda, a car dealership in Old Bridge. On January 18, 2011, during normal working hours, Curbelo allegedly lay down next to a patch of ice in the parking lot of his employer, called for assistance from his fellow employees, and claimed that he had slipped on the ice and severely injured his back. Based upon this claim, Curbelo received extensive medical treatment on his back, including at least three major surgeries, valued at approximately $527,873, of which approximately $140,213 was paid by the car dealership’s insurer, Gallagher Bassett. It is alleged he had first injured his back in March 2010 while he was unemployed.
In addition, Curbelo claimed his injuries made him unable to work and thus received from Gallagher Bassett approximately 49 bi-weekly workers compensation temporary disability payments in the amount of approximately $55,803 from August 2011 to September 2013. However, from approximately late 2011 through early 2013, he was employed at Dawn’s Auto Body in Keyport and paid off the books to allegedly ensure that his workers compensation payments would not be interrupted. While employed at Dawn’s Auto Body, he allegedly used his access to the company’s bank account and stole $16,700 by making various electronic payments for personal items and also to make payments to the credit card of Stankovitz.
During his employment with Dawn’s Auto Body, the defendant is alleged to have admitted to the owners on separate occasions that he did not injure his back in January 2011 at DCH Honda, but that he had laid down next to a patch of ice in an area not in view of the dealership’s security cameras to make it appear as though he had slipped in order to obtain coverage under his employer’s insurance. The owners terminated Curbelo’s employment in March 2013, after they allegedly discovered that he had stolen money from the company’s bank account.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000.
Deputy Attorneys General T.J. Harker and Michael Clore, Sergeant Jarek Pyrzanowski and Detective Wendy Berg coordinated the investigation.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi 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.