Authorities said a former New York City police officer has been sentenced to two to six years in state prison for a scheme to defraud auto insurance companies.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the sentencing of Jose E. Urena Monday.
“This elaborate scheme was a brazen attempt to game the insurance system for profit,” Schneiderman said. “This conviction and prison sentence sends a clear message: there must be one set of rules for everyone, including those sworn to uphold the law.”
An investigation by the attorney general’s Auto Insurance Fraud Unit found that while Urena was employed as a New York City Police Officer, he submitted four fraudulent auto insurance claims in two years, and filed false documents and gave false testimony in an attempt to conceal his crimes.
In October 2014, Urena was arrested on an 11-count indictment in New York County. In November 2014, the attorney general re-arrested Urena on a related second indictment in Westchester County.
According to the indictments and statements made by prosecutors, as well as Urena’s admissions in court, in May 2012, Urena falsely reported a claim to Nationwide Insurance Company that his leased 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML350 had been vandalized.
After Nationwide paid $9,289 for the vandalism claim, Urena used the money to repair pre-existing damage to the car, authorities said.
In January 2013, Urena filed a second fraudulent claim for the same Mercedes-Benz. Just one day before his lease on the Mercedes was due to expire, when the car was almost $2,000 over the allowable mileage limit and one week after cashing a $6,242 insurance check for repairs that were never made, Urena reported the car stolen.
But authorities said that in fact, it had not been stolen; Urena had given the keys to an individual to dispose of the Mercedes, so that he would not be responsible for any payments he owed. Just hours after the alleged theft took place, the Mercedes was found burned out in a warehouse district in the Bronx.
As part of a subsequent Nationwide investigation into his theft claim, Urena signed a notarized affidavit of vehicle theft, falsely swearing that his car had been stolen. Authorities said that in addition, he lied during a Nationwide deposition, stating that the Mercedes had been stolen and it had been in good condition when it had been stolen.
Authorities said that just two months later, in March 2013, Urena was having trouble making payments on a financed 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550. To free himself from financial responsibility for that car, Urena staged an accident by rear-ending a U-Haul truck, after which his insurer, GEICO, wrote off the Mercedes as a total loss.
Urena’s fourth false claim occurred in July 2014, when he submitted a claim to GEICO after his 2011 Dodge Charger was involved in an accident. Urena inflated the amount of the claim to cover the cost of repairing pre-existing damage to the car and to make cosmetic improvements.
He used part of the resulting $7,503 insurance payout to add features to the car including a new grille, expensive tires and a painted roof.
Urena pleaded guilty in New York County Supreme Court in August 2015 to one count of insurance fraud in the third degree (a Class D felony) and one count of scheme to defraud in the first degree (a Class E felony).
His sentence will run concurrently with the previous sentence of one to three years in prison that he received in Westchester County for his guilty plea to one count of falsifying business records in the first degree (a class E felony).
Urena officially resigned his position as an New York City Police Department officer prior to pleading guilty in Westchester County.
The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Nationwide Insurance Company, GEICO Insurance Company, Mercedes Benz, and the New York State Department of Financial Services assisted in investigating this case.