|TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced today that a Passaic County hotel manager has been indicted on charges of theft and first-degree money laundering for allegedly stealing more than $1 million from his boss, including draining a $600,000 insurance annuity belonging to his employer.
Prosecutors obtained a state grand jury indictment against Vikas Mehta, 43, of Cliffside Park, that also included charges of identity theft, theft by unlawful taking, and forgery for allegedly stealing four checks in amounts of $600,000, $100,000, $185,000, and $205,385 from his employer at Fairbridge (formerly Ramada) Inn in Wayne.
Mehta used some of the stolen proceeds to purchase real estate in Englewood Cliffs, which he later sold at a profit, according to prosecutors. He transferred other monies to various accounts belonging primarily to him and his corporation, NGCS, LLC, according to prosecutors.
“Vikas Mehta allegedly abused his position as a trusted employee to steal his boss’s personal information which he then used to raid more than $800,000 from the man’s investment savings,” said Attorney General Porrino. “He continued to indulge his unbridled greed by allegedly forging and depositing an insurance check made out to his boss for more than $200,000. As the charges in the indictment show, this kind of blatant criminal behavior carries serious consequences.”
“Through his alleged actions, this defendant not only defrauded insurance companies, he cruelly victimized the man who paid his wages,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “We will vigorously prosecute anyone who seeks to enrich themselves by duping insurance companies into releasing money that belongs to hardworking investors.”
According to prosecutors, Mehta worked in a Wayne hotel owned by a Long Island businessman and learned that his boss owned a $600,000 annuity with Prudential Insurance Company (Prudential). Insurance. Between January and February of 2013 Mehta allegedly used his boss’s personal information to arrange to have the annuity cashed out via the phone and have the check delivered by Fed Ex to a place where he could intercept it. He allegedly deposited the check into his own account and then disbursed the proceeds into accounts that were closed a short time later. His boss discovered the loss much later and reported it to Prudential. Prudential referred the matter to OIFP in December 2015.
OIFP detectives working on the case uncovered several other large sums of money Mehta allegedly stole from his boss. In April 2013 allegedly arranged for two payments to be released from an IRA account held by his boss with Securities America, Inc, one in the amount of $100,000, the other in the amount of $185,000. In both instances, Mehta allegedly forged IRA Distribution Forms for the payments, which were made by wire transfers into a Bank of New Jersey corporate account belonging to Mehta. According to the charges, in July 2013 Mehta stole a $205,385 check issued by American Security Insurance Company to settle an insurance claim Mehta’s boss made on a rental home that burned down. Mehta’s boss’s wife had endorsed the check and given it Mehta to obtain the additional endorsement from the mortgage company that held the lien on the home so the funds would be available to repair the house. Instead Mehta allegedly endorsed the lien holder’s signature and deposited the check into an NGCS LLC corporate account with Chase Bank.
Mehta was indicted Wednesday on charges of financial facilitation (money laundering (1st degree), identity theft (2nd degree), four counts of theft by unlawful taking (2nd degree), and four counts of forgery (one 3rd degree, three 4th degree).
First degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $500,000; second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal 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.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Deputy Attorney General Dennis Kwasnik presented the case to the grand jury.
Detective Keith Franco coordinated the investigation with assistance from Sgt. Audrey Young. Investigators with Prudential Ins. Co. and Securities America Also assisted in the investigation.
The defendant is represented by Jerry Steinfeld, Esq.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Iu 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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