N.Y. Arrests Oneonta Tire Store Owner on Arson Charges

April 11, 2006

A 38-year-old Oneonta, New York businessman has been arrested on charges of insurance fraud and arson related to a fire that occurred at Monser Brothers Tire Sales, Inc. in Oneonta, in August 2002.

Jeffrey Gelbsman, 38, of 24 East Street, Oneonta, the part-owner and full-time manager of the retail/wholesale tire store in question, was arrested and arraigned in the town of Oneonta’s local criminal court.

Gelbsman’s arrest was for his alleged role in a fire that occurred at the former Wall Street location late in the evening of Aug. 16, 2002. The business has since moved to, and is currently situated at, 375 Chestnut Street, Oneonta, N.Y.

New York Superintendent of Insurance Howard Mills and Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl today announced the arrest.

“The Insurance Department takes these cases, where either insurance fraud or arson are involved, very seriously,” Mills stated. “In this instance, dozens of firefighters spent hours risking their lives to extinguish a blaze that caused almost $500,000 in property damage. But an exhaustive investigation by our frauds bureau and the department’s special prosecutor, working in conjunction with other governmental agencies, indicated that this fire may not have started by accident.”

Selective Insurance Company, the property/casualty insurer for Monser Brothers Tire Sales, Inc., paid claims to Monser totaling more than $480,000 for the losses the business incurred in August 2002. With the insurance monies, Monser Brothers Tire Sales, Inc. constructed its existing outlet at 375 Chestnut Street. The property on which Monser previously operated, and where the fire occurred, was subsequently sold to the city of Oneonta and converted into a municipal parking lot.

According to Mills, New York State Insurance Department investigations led to 753 arrests statewide in 2005, one of the highest annual arrest numbers achieved since the department’s frauds bureau was created in 1981.

Source: NYSID

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