Livery Fleet Owner Found Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court In Multi-Year Insurance Fraud Scheme
Scheme Defrauded Automobile Insurance Companies by Misrepresenting Where and How Livery Vehicles Were Being Garaged, Operated, and Used
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that SCOTT ERIC SANDERS was found guilty yesterday on all counts against him in an Indictment charging him with participating in a long-running automobile insurance fraud scheme and aggravated identity theft. As part of the scheme, SANDERS, who owns fleets of commercial vehicles, systematically misled insurance companies as to where the vehicles he owned and controlled were garaged and operated, and how those vehicles were being used, so that he could obtain automobile insurance for those vehicles at substantially lower premiums. SANDERS was convicted after a four-week jury trial before U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.
According to evidence introduced at trial, other proceedings in this case, and documents previously filed in Manhattan federal court:
In New York State, owners of fleets of commercial vehicles, including livery cars and ambulettes, are required to obtain commercial automobile liability and physical damage insurance coverage. The insurance policy premiums are based, in part, on where the insured vehicles are garaged and operated, as well as how the vehicles are used. Vehicles that are principally garaged or operated in New York City are charged a substantially higher premium than vehicles that are principally garaged or operated elsewhere. Vehicles that are primarily used as livery cabs are charged a substantially higher insurance premium than vehicles that are operated for many other commercial purposes. Owners of livery fleets obtain automobile insurance through the voluntary insurance market or, when they are unable to obtain insurance through the voluntary market, through the New York Automobile Insurance Plan (“NYAIP”). The NYAIP assigns policy applications to insurance carriers doing business in New York State, who are then required to provide insurance coverage to the applicant.
From 2005 through 2010, SANDERS controlled fleets of livery cars that were garaged and operated in New York City. During that time period, SANDERS engaged in a widespread conspiracy to defraud automobile insurance companies in order to obtain automobile insurance for his vehicles at lower premiums by misrepresenting where the vehicles were garaged and operated, and in some instances, how those vehicles were being used. SANDERS caused insurance applications to be submitted to both NYAIP and directly to insurance companies that claimed his vehicles were garaged and operated outside of New York City, when they were not. In addition, on some of those applications, he represented that his vehicles were being used for commercial purposes other than as livery vehicles when they were in fact being used as livery vehicles. In addition, in some of these applications, SANDERS falsely listed other people as the presidents and owners of his companies to conceal his ownership and control of those companies. Relying on these misrepresentations, the insurance companies issued insurance policies for the vehicles controlled by SANDERS at lower premiums than those for which they would have been eligible had the insurance companies been aware of the true locations of garaging, operation, and true use of these vehicles.
In addition, as part of the same scheme, SANDERS helped other commercial fleet owners whose vehicles operated in New York City obtain insurance at lower premiums using the same misrepresentations about how those vehicles were being used and where those vehicles were being garaged and operated. Over the course of his scheme, insurance companies lost millions in premiums that they would have otherwise charged had they been provided accurate garaging, operating, and usage information about the vehicles.
SANDERS was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
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SANDERS, 41, of Saddle River, New Jersey, faces a maximum sentence of 120 years in prison on the seven fraud counts and a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft count. In addition, he faces a maximum fine of at least $1.5 million and forfeiture of the proceeds of the crime. SANDERS is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Kaplan on July 9, 2013.
Mr. Bharara praised the United States Postal Inspection Service for its outstanding work in the investigation. Mr. Bharara also thanked the NYAIP and the National Insurance Crime Bureau for their assistance.
This matter is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Krieger and Brent Wible are in charge of the criminal case.