|TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) today announced that a Florida couple has been charged with first-degree conspiracy and money laundering, and second degree insurance fraud for allegedly filing nearly $800,000 in false claims for refrigerated cargo purportedly spoiled in cross-country transport by the couple’s long-haul trucking companies in Middlesex.
Palm Coast, Florida residents Alexei Legassov, 55, and Ekaterina Khlaponina, 37, were also charged with second-degree theft by deception and attempted theft by deception in an indictment handed up by a state Grand Jury in Trenton. Legassov, who also resides in Staten Island, was further charged with misconduct by a corporate official.
According to the indictment, the couple owned and/or controlled various long-haul trucking companies in Middlesex County, including, but not limited to, Akmos Trade Limited; Moon and Eggplant Limited; Passing Score LLC; and G.K. Refrigerated Line, LLC.
According to the indictment, between July 2012 and May 2017, under the guise of their various cargo hauling companies, the pair allegedly filed and/or caused to be filed at least nine fraudulent insurance claims to at least three insurance companies. The nine claims sought approximately $796,500 in total settlement funds to cover losses purportedly incurred when truck refrigeration units broke down in transport, damaging and/or destroying fruits, vegetables, frozen cakes and other refrigerated cargo. In reality the cargo was not damaged and/or destroyed and/or did not exist, according to the indictment.
“These defendants went to great lengths to give their alleged criminal conspiracy the patina of legitimacy, said Attorney General Porrino. “We allege they used fabricated invoices and other fraudulent documents to buttress their false claims for losses never incurred. They now face serious charges for defrauding carriers that insure cargo vital to commerce.”
“Cargo fraud not only increases premiums for honest trucking companies, it drives up the cost of transporting food, forcing shoppers to pay more for groceries,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “This indictment demonstrates our continued efforts to assure the integrity of the insurance industry and protect honest citizen from bearing the burden of insurance fraud.”
Harleysville Insurance Company (“Harleysville”), which has now merged with Nationwide Insurance Company, and AIG and/or Lexington Insurance Company paid six settlement claims totaling approximately $509,000 to Akmos Trade Limited and Moon and Eggplant Limited, according to the prosecutor. Thereafter, the settlement checks were received and deposited into bank accounts owned and/or controlled by Legassov and/or Khlaponina, according to the indictment.
Three claims seeking approximately $288,000 total, were denied by Harleysville and Progressive Insurance Company, according to the prosecutor
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. First-degree crimes 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.
Deputy Attorney General Kelly Levy presented the case to the grand jury. Detectives Taryn Seidner, Natalie Brotherston, and Matthew Armstrong coordinated the investigation with assistance from Harleysville, including SIU Investigator Mike Graziose, AIG, and Progressive Insurance Company, the New Jersey State Police, analysts Greg Nolan and Terry Worthington.
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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