New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that a former Mercer County law enforcement officer has reportedly pleaded guilty to operating an “arson-for-profit” and insurance fraud scheme responsible for at least six arson fires which netted more than $500,000 in insurance settlement claims.
According to Vaughn McKoy, Director, Division of Criminal Justice and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown, Marc Rossi, 39, of Mercer County, pleaded guilty to charges of arson, conspiracy to commit arson, bribery, theft and theft by deception. As a result of the guilty plea before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey, Rossi faces 10 years in state prison and more than $500,000 in restitution to various insurance companies defrauded as a result of the extensive “arson-for-profit” scheme. Rossi was a former investigator with the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. Rossi is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Delehey on Jan. 9, 2004.
The Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor obtained two separate State Grand Jury indictments against Rossi on July 18 and Dec. 3, 2002. The indictments identified Rossi as the owner/operator of Rossi Adjustment Services, a Trenton-based insurance claims adjusting firm. In pleading guilty, Rossi reportedly admitted that between Jan. 22, 1999 and Aug. 10, 1999 to planning or participating in the setting of fires at:
• Dec. 14, 1998 fire at a residence located at 508 West Hanover Street, Trenton (property of Geneva Adderley);
• Jan. 11, 1999 barn fire at 58 Soloff Drive in Hamilton Township (property of Frank “Sonny” Rose);
• Jan. 22, 1999 fire a residence located at 1732 East State Street, Hamilton Township;
• Feb. 2, 1999 fire at a rental property located at 41-43 Prospect Street, Trenton;;
• March 11, 1999 fire at Graziano’s Florist located at 540 South Clinton Ave., Trenton;
• April 6, 1999 fire at the Country Barrel Inn located at 5834 South Broad Street, Hamilton Township;
As part of the guilty plea, Rossi reportedly admitted that he purposely caused property damage at an apartment he owned located at 136 Second Ave. in Bordentown by making it appear that vandals had broken into the residence and caused damage which was subject to an insurance claim reimbursement.
Additionally, a separate criminal Accusation charged Rossi and others with paying a $100 cash bribe to a member of a Hamilton Township volunteer fire department in order to obtain work for his (Rossi’s) insurance adjustment business. Rossi also pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy to inflate costs and to steal monies from a construction project involving the East Windsor Police Athletic League. The Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor is continuing to investigate the allegations surrounding the potential illegality regarding the East Windsor Police Athletic League.
As part of the guilty plea, Rossi will be required to pay $537,673 in restitution to Providence Washington Insurance Company ($306,209); Zurich Insurance Company ($90,318); Pennsylvania Mutual Insurance Company (($31,176); Farmers Mutual Fire Assurance of New Jersey ($2,054); New Jersey Underwriters Association ($59,021); and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company ($48,895).
The arson-for-hire investigation conducted by the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor resulted in the indictment and/or charging of several Rossi co-defendants identified as part of the arson and insurance fraud conspiracy. The co-defendants include:
• Michael Winberg, 42, Levittown, Pa. Winberg was reportedly charged in a May 28, 2002, State Grand Jury indictment with setting the March 19, 1999 fire at Jerry’s Pizza located at 701 South Broad St., Trenton. Winberg, formerly a licensed public insurance adjuster, was employed by Rossi Adjustment Services as a public insurance adjuster. Winberg was previously convicted by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor for theft related to his insurance business as a public adjuster. On March 16, 2001, Winberg was sentenced on the theft charge to three years probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $15,337. On Oct. 24, Winberg was sentenced to five years in state prison on the arson charge;
• Jeffrey Nemes, 37, of Mercer County, the former owner/operator of Nemes Enterprises construction company, was indicted by a State Grand Jury on Dec. 18, 2000, on a charge that he reportedly stole at least $75,000 in insurance money for failing to complete agreed upon repairs from four homeowners whose properties had sustained fire damage. Nemes, a former sergeant with the Hamilton Township Police Department and former volunteer deputy chief of the Whitehorse Fire Company, was convicted by a jury in February on charges of theft by failure to make required disposition of property received. On May 30, Nemes was sentenced to seven years in state prison;
• Frank “Sonny” Rose pleaded guilty to an Accusation on Dec. 8, 2000 which charged him with arson and conspiracy to commit theft by deception. Rose reportedly admitted to conspiring with Rossi to set fire to his (Rose’s) garage in order to submit an insurance claim. Rose was subsequently paid $44,000 by the insurance company for this claim. Rose was sentenced to five years probation on Dec. 14, 2001;
• Marc Graziano, the owner of Graziano’s Florist Shop, pleaded guilty to an Accusation on Feb. 11, 2002, which charged conspiracy to commit arson and theft by deception. In pleading guilty, Graziano is reported to have admitted that he conspired with Rossi and others to set fire to the florist shop in order to obtain $65,892 in fire insurance claim money from Zurich Insurance Group. Graziano was sentenced to five years probation on March 21;
• Otis Boone, 35, of Trenton, Mercer County, was charged by the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor in a State Grand Jury indictment on Feb. 27, 2000. Boone was charged with arson for hire, theft by deception, conspiracy and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose for his reported participation in seven arson fires, including Jerry’s Pizza, the Country Barrel Inn and Graziano’s Florist Shop. The weapons charge stemmed from Boone’s alleged use of a “Molotov cocktail” to start one of the fires. Boone pleaded guilty to conspiracy and six counts of aggravated arson on Oct. 21, 2002 and faces seven years in state prison. Boone is slated to be sentenced on Dec. 17;
• Jerome Adderley, 37, Ewing Twp., Mercer County, was indicted by a State Grand Jury on Feb. 27, 2000 on charges of conspiracy, arson and theft by deception in connection with the Graziano Florist Shop arson fire. Adderley was arrested by the New York City Police Department on July 18, 2002 on a fugitive warrant filed by the Division of Criminal Justice. Adderley reportedly pled guilty to conspiracy on August 27, 2002. Adderley was sentenced on Dec. 20, 2002, to two years probation conditioned upon serving 364 days (time already served) in county jail.
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