The following is a release from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General:
A Monmouth County public insurance adjuster has been indicted on insurance fraud and related charges for allegedly submitting fraudulent insurance claims in an attempt to defraud New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) out of more than $15,000, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa annouced.
Joseph Shammah, 39, of West Long Branch, owner of Northeast Claims Group, LLC, was charged April 4 in a Mercer County grand jury indictment with: second-degree insurance fraud, third-degree attempted theft by deception, fourth-degree misconduct by a corporate official and fourth-degree false swearing.
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.
“At a time when thousands of New Jersey homeowners are still reeling from the effects of Superstorm Sandy, they need to know that they can depend on the people they hire to negotiate on their behalf and that those hired professionals will conduct themselves within the confines of the law,” Chiesa said. “We believe that this defendant violated the law in an attempt to line his own pocket.”
“When corrupt public adjusters defraud insurance companies, this deception results in increased insurance rates for homeowners in New Jersey,” Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi said. “Investigating and prosecuting dishonest public adjusters is a priority for the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor and my office will continue to use proactive techniques such as stings to crack down on this type of fraud. When we successfully root out this type of behavior, we help alleviate some of the burdens of rising insurance costs that homeowners face.”
As part of “Operation Home Makeover,” the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor utilized undercover personnel. The indictment alleges that between April 1 and Aug. 3, 2012, Shammah came to the house and made false statements regarding the damage in order to obtain approximately $15,452 from NJM to which he was not entitled. It is further alleged that Shammah swore false information about the cause of the damage under oath.
It is alleged that the undercover detectives recorded statements from Shammah that demonstrate that he knew that the claims that he submitted were false and that he was not entitled to recover insurance proceeds for the type of damage that actually exists at the property.
Shammah allegedly tried to push through these claims in order to fraudulently recover insurance money to which he was not legally entitled.
An indictment does not indicate a conviction.
Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in state prison and a criminal fine of $10,000.
Deputy Attorneys General Cheryl A. Maccaroni and T.J. Harker, Lt. Russell Rizzo, and Detectives Christine Sullivan and Michael Rasar were assigned to the case. Sgt. Jarek Pyrzanowski and Detective Natalie Brotherston also assisted in the investigation.