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March 2021
Arrests  |  Convictions  | Submit a Referral

Man Charged with Stealing Funds from Elderly Victim, Estate

On March 4, 2021, criminal charges were filed in Bucks County against Kenneth Neeld. The case was investigated before a Statewide Grand Jury. According to the criminal complaint, the Grand Jury found that Neeld schemed to steal money from an 84-year-old terminally ill victim and ultimately from the victim’s estate. The charges allege that Neeld was a funeral director and the principal of Continuum Group, a consulting firm which purported to offer financial advice to the elderly. In early 2016, the elderly Bucks County victim allegedly authorized Neeld to exercise power of attorney over his financial affairs. The complaint further stated that the victim signed a will which named Neeld as executor of his estate and designated three charities as the estate’s beneficiaries. The victim died in September of 2016. From March of 2016 through December of 2020, Neeld allegedly abused his authority and used funds belonging to the victim and the estate for his own benefit.  According to the complaint, Neeld transferred funds directly into his own account from an account belonging to the victim. Also, Neeld allegedly used the victim’s funds to pay his own debts and expenses, including federal, state and local taxes, orthodontic and veterinary bills, auto repair costs, insurance premiums, credit card bills, and a vacation home rental. According to the criminal complaint, Neeld concealed the victim’s death from Integrity Life Insurance Company in order to have the insurer deposit more than $35,000 in annuity funds into an account controlled by Neeld, rather than have the funds go directly to the deceased victim’s charitable beneficiaries.  Further, the complaint stated that Neeld falsely claimed to have provided a funeral for the victim, in order to obtain more than $10,000 in funeral benefits from Unity Financial Life Insurance Company. In total, Neeld allegedly stole more than $257,916. Neeld was charged with Corrupt Organization (F1); Theft by Unlawful Taking (F2); Theft by Deception (F3); Theft by Failure to Make a Required Disposition of Funds Received (F3); Forgery (F3); Misapplication of Entrusted Property (M2); Insurance Fraud (F3); False Swearing (M2); Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities (F1); Criminal Use of Communication Facility (F3); Unlawful Use of a Computer (F3); and Making a False Inheritance Return (M3).

Charges Filed in Case Involving Scheme to Defraud Health Insurers

On March 18, 2021, criminal charges were filed in Cumberland County against Jeffrey Schwartz, Justin Helfert, Dennis Henning, Dean Kraemer, Laura Lewis and Isaac Branch and Eric Branch. The case was investigated by a Statewide Grand Jury which issued a written presentment of its findings. According to the presentment, beginning in the summer of 2016 and continuing through the summer of 2017, the defendants illegally engaged in a scheme to secure health care policies and pay the policy premiums on behalf of drug and alcohol patients, most of whom were receiving treatment at Harmony Place, a facility in California. The complaint stated that the Pennsylvania policies from Highmark, Independence Blue Cross and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) were obtained from the “marketplace” established under the Affordable Care Act. According to the presentment, Schwartz was the owner of Harmony Place and the other defendants were employees of the facility or affiliates. In obtaining the coverage, the defendants allegedly misrepresented that the patients in question resided in Pennsylvania. According to the presentment, Harmony Place and other associated treatment centers billed the insurers at exorbitant rates for services to the insured patients in question. In all, the defendants allegedly billed approximately $30 million to the insurers under the scheme.  Helfert, Henning, Kraemer, Lewis, and Eric Branch were charged with two counts of Corrupt Organizations (F1), three counts of Insurance Fraud (F3), one count of Insurance Fraud (M1), and one count of Criminal Conspiracy to Commit Insurance Fraud (F3), and one count of Criminal Conspiracy to Commit Insurance Fraud (M1).  Schwartz was also charged with Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activites (F1) and Theft by Deception (F3). Isaac Branch was charged with one count Theft by Deception (F3), one count Criminal Conspiracy/Insurance Fraud (F3), and one count of Criminal Conspiracy/Insurance Fraud (M1). 

Bucks County Doctor Pleads Guilty to All Charges

On March 24, 2021, Dr. Gregory Grabon was ordered to be placed on intensive drug-treatment supervision after entering a guilty plea to one count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (F1), three counts of Forgery (M1), one count of Insurance Fraud (F3), 26 counts of Identity Theft (M1) and 25 counts of Controlled Substances Act (F). The charges stemmed from a joint investigation by the Office of Attorney General, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office and the Quakertown Borough Police Department. In July of 2019, Grabon submitted a claim to New York Life for total disability benefits. In support of his claim, Grabon submitted a treating doctor’s verification form which purportedly was completed and signed by a physician in Brooklyn, New York. An investigation established that the doctor in question had never examined or treated Grabon and did not complete or sign the form. The doctor told investigators that he last saw Grabon when they both were completing medical school residency programs in 2014.  New York Life denied Grabon’s disability claim after learning that the claim form had been forged and contained false information. It was determined that the insurer would have paid $38,000 from the time that the claim was filed to the point when New York Life discovered the fraud and denied the claim. The joint law enforcement investigation also revealed that for several years, Grabon illegally wrote and filled numerous prescriptions for the drug Ambien or its generic equivalent. Grabon obtained the drugs to feed his own addiction
On March 2, 2021, George Mouzone was arrested in Delaware County.  According to the criminal complaint, at 2:06 PM on September 16, 2019, Mouzone’s uninsured vehicle was involved in a two-vehicle crash in Upper Darby Township.  Later that same day, Mouzone allegedly called his Progressive agent and added the damaged vehicle to his existing policy. He filed a claim for the loss on September 30, 2019 and allegedly reported to the insurer that the crash occurred on September 17, 2019 between 12:30 PM and 1:00 PM, which was after the vehicle was added to the policy.  However, the complaint further stated that according to the police accident report, the crash actually occurred at 1:47 PM on September 16, 2019. Mouzone allegedly admitted to law enforcement agents that he made false statements to the insurer in hopes of getting coverage for the accident. Mouzone is charged with one count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (F3).
On March 4, 2021, Lucas David McHenry was arrested in Clinton County.  According to the criminal complaint, McHenry obtained a vehicle policy from The General insurance company on July 20, 2020.  On August 3, McHenry allegedly filed a claim with The General and reported that his insured vehicle had been involved in an accident earlier that day. The complaint stated that McHenry claimed that while he was driving in a Walmart parking lot near Lock Haven, he swerved to avoid another vehicle and his car struck a cement pole. The insurer asked McHenry to provide photos of the damage. According to the complaint, the photo metadata revealed that the pictures were taken on May 7, 2020, nearly two months before he obtained his vehicle policy. The complaint further stated that McHenry ultimately admitted that the damage preexisted the inception of his coverage. McHenry is charged with one count of Insurance Fraud (F3) and one count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (F3).
On March 10, 2021, Davaughn Brown was arrested in Montgomery County.  According to the criminal complaint, at 4:20 PM on April 11, 2020, Brown purchased a comprehensive   insurance policy from Progressive for his Nissan Altima. On April 15, 2020, Brown phoned Progressive insurance and reported that he had been involved in a two vehicle accident on April 11, 2020 at 5:00 PM. The insurer conducted interviews of Brown and the driver of the other involved vehicle and allegedly determined that the accident occurred before Brown obtained his policy on April 11. Progressive denied the claim. Brown is charged with one count of Insurance Fraud (F3), one count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (F3), and one count of Criminal Use of Communication Facility.
On March 18, 2021, Ashley Fick was arrested in Schuylkill County.  According to the criminal complaint, on May 2, 2020, Fick purchased an automobile insurance policy with the Root Insurance Company.  On May 12, 2020, at 6:34 PM, Fick used the Root mobile app to file a claim in which she allegedly stated that her vehicle was damaged by a hit and run driver at 9:30 PM on May 11. However, the complaint further stated that investigators determined that the damage was preexisting and actually occurred when Fick’s vehicle was involved in an accident on March 9. Root Insurance denied Fick’s claim.  Fick was charged with one count of Insurance Fraud (F3).
On March 18, 2021, Catherine Colalella and Thomas Shaw were arrested in Beaver County.  According to the criminal complaint, at approximately 8:05 AM on November 7, 2020, Shaw, was driving a Chevrolet Traverse owned by Colalella, when it crashed into a telephone pole.  Approximately an hour later, Colalella allegedly obtained coverage for the vehicle from Progressive Insurance. According to the complaint, her previous coverage was cancelled for non-payment on August 14.  Colalella allegedly filed an on-line claim with Progressive on November 8, in which she claimed that the vehicle had been involved in an accident at 8 PM the night before.   According to the complaint, both Colalella and Shaw told Progressive that the accident occurred after the insurance policy had been obtained. However, police and tow reports allegedly revealed that the crash occurred prior to the policy’s inception. During an interview with law enforcement, Shaw allegedly confirmed that the accident occurred before his mother obtained coverage and stated that he and Colalella discussed the need to have insurance pay for the damage. Colalella and Shaw were each charged with one count of Insurance Fraud (F3), once count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (F3), and one count of Insurance Fraud/Conspiracy (F3)
On March 29, 2020, Jenna Rene Samulewski was arrested in Butler County. According to the criminal complaint, on December 10, 2020, at 6:55 AM, Samulewski made changes to her Progressive Insurance automobile policy. Specifically, Samulewski allegedly added a Volkswagen Passat to her policy with comprehensive and collision coverage and a $500 deductible. The complaint further stated that Samulewski added her boyfriend, William Morrison, as an insured driver on the policy. At approximately 7:48 AM that same day, Samulewski allegedly claimed that Morrison had been driving the Volkswagen Passat when it struck a deer. During the claim process, Samulewski and Morrison allegedly provided conflicting statements as to who was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident. According to the complaint, Morrison informed Progressive that the accident occurred before the policy was changed, but Samulewski maintained that the accident occurred after she added the Volkswagen to her policy.   The complaint further stated that investigators confirmed through witnesses that the accident occurred before the vehicle was added to the policy. Samulewski allegedly admitted to investigators that she made false statements to the insurer in an attempt to get coverage for the vehicle damage. Progressive denied the claim.  Samulewski is charged with Insurance Fraud (F3), one count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (F3).
On March 30, 2021, Brittany Neidlinger and James Diehl were arrested in Luzerne County.  According to the criminal complaint, on January 5, 2020, at 2:30 PM, Neidlinger reinstated her lapsed automobile policy with the GEICO Insurance Company. The policy was cancelled by the insurer on November 14, 2019 for non-payment of premium.  On January 5, 2020 at 7:14 PM, Neidlinger filed a claim with GEICO and allegedly stated that her vehicle struck a deer at 6:30 PM on January 5, 2020.  However, according to the complaint, investigators determined that the accident actually occurred on the day before Neidlinger reinstated her lapsed policy. The investigation also revealed that Neidlinger’s husband James Diehl allegedly conspired with Neidlinger to make a false statement in support of the deer strike claim. GEICO denied payment of the claim. Neidlinger and Diehl were each charged with two counts of Insurance Fraud (F3), and one count of Theft by Deception (F3).
On March 31, 2021, Brandon Williams was arrested in Butler County.  According to the criminal complaint, on May 22, 2020, Williams obtained an auto policy with Progressive Insurance. The policy was cancelled on July 13, when Williams allegedly failed to pay his premium.  According to the complaint, at 6:04 PM on July 31, Williams reinstated his policy with no lapse in coverage by submitting   a statement of no loss to Progressive. The complaint further stated that Progressive subsequently received a claim for a two vehicle accident which involved Williams’ vehicle. Williams allegedly advised the insurer that the loss occurred after he reinstated his coverage. However, an investigation allegedly revealed that the accident occurred shortly before Williams’ coverage was reinstated on July 31. According to the complaint, Williams admitted to investigators that he had not been truthful with Progressive during the application and claims process. Progressive paid approximately $5,979.23 to the owner of the other involved vehicle. Williams was charged with one count of Insurance Fraud (F3), one count of Theft by Deception (F3), and one count of Insurance Fraud (M1).
On March 4, 2021, Gino DeJesse was sentenced in Lehigh County after entering a negotiated plea to the charge of Workers’ Compensation Fraud (F3). On January 23, 2018, DeJesse reported to his employer, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, that he had suffered a workplace injury to his back while exiting an elevator. After several hours of light duty, DeJesse advised his employer that he was in too much pain to continue working. The complaint stated that DeJesse told medical personnel on several occasions that his pain level was very high and that he couldn’t work. On, January 23, 2018, DeJesse began to receive total disability Workers’ Compensation benefits from the hospital’s third party Workers’ Compensation benefit administrator, PMA Management Corporation. On February 16, 2018, DeJesse submitted to his employer two LIBC forms which indicated that he was neither employed nor self-employed. During the two-week period in which DeJesse told medical personnel that he was unable to work, investigators observed DeJesse working at his family-owned catering business without exhibiting any noticeable difficulty or pain. DeJesse initially received $1,110.12 in total disability Worker’s Compensation benefits, but, by way of litigation, received payments arising from his claim that he was injured at work and wrongfully fired for lying about it. DeJesse filed a union grievance over his firing and continued to litigate his Workers’ Compensation claim. Ultimately the parties agreed to settle both matters. DeJesse was ordered to serve 84 months of probation, pay restitution in the amount of $36,190.29, and pay fines and costs.
On March 4, 2021, Patrick Duda was sentenced in Westmoreland County after entering a negotiated plea to Insurance Fraud (F3).  On January 16, 2019 Duda renewed his GEICO automobile policy with liability coverage only. On June 2, 2019 at 4:03 AM, Duda added comprehensive coverage to the policy.  The additional coverage took effect on June 3, 2019. At 7:24 PM on June 10, Duda filed a claim online for damage to his vehicle. He reported that the vehicle’s hood and lift gate were dented and that the tail light was broken. When he filed the claim, Duda reported that the damage occurred sometime between the evening of June 9 and the early morning hours of June 10. He also told the insurer that he had reported the vandalism to police on June 10. A subsequent investigation revealed that the police report was actually filed on June 1 and that the damage occurred before Duda added the comprehensive coverage. Duda was sentenced to 24 months of probation, ordered to perform 50 hours of community service, and pay court costs.
On March 5, 2021, Zachary Lauritsen was sentenced in Blair County after entering a negotiated plea to a charge of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (M1).  On October 13, 2019, Lauritsen was driving his significant other’s uninsured vehicle when it was involved in an accident. On October 15, Lauritsen’s significant other obtained coverage for the vehicle from Progressive Insurance. On October 17, Lauritsen contacted Progressive and reported that he had been driving the vehicle earlier that day when it struck a deer. Progressive reviewed photos of the damage and a screenshot of text messages between Lauritsen and a family member. Based upon the review, the insurer determined that the accident occurred prior to the inception of the vehicle policy and denied the claim. Lauritsen was ordered to serve 24 months of probation and pay court costs.
On March 10, 2021, Paul Reinthaler was sentenced in Elk County after entering a negotiated plea to a count of Insurance Fraud (F3). On August 14, 2019, Reinthaler purchased full vehicle coverage from Progressive Insurance. On September 3, 2019, Reinthaler reported to Progressive that while his vehicle was parked in New York City between 1:00 AM and 1:45 AM on September 1, someone slashed the vehicle’s tires and broke all of its windows. Reinthaler provided Progressive with photographs of the damage. Investigators determined that the photos were taken prior to the inception of Reinthaler’s coverage. Investigators also reviewed a written repair quote that Reinthaler obtained from Safelite Auto Glass and noted that the quote was dated prior to the inception of Reinthaler’s coverage. Reinthaler was ordered to serve 9-24 months of incarceration and to pay costs and fees.
On March 10, 2021, Mildred Estrella was sentenced in Delaware County after entering a negotiated plea to a count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (M1).  On January 21, 2011 approximately 12:52 PM, Estrella phoned Infinity Insurance and purchased an auto insurance policy for her Saturn and reported no recent accidents.  On January 24, 2011, Estrella contacted Infinity Insurance and claimed that she was involved in an auto accident January 21, 2011 at 4:00 PM. During the investigation it was discovered that Estrella purchased the policy after the accident occurred and then provided false information to Infinity Insurance about the time of the accident. After violating the terms of ARD, Estrella failed to show up for court and was in fugitive status until it was discovered that she was living in Florida.  Estrella was ordered to serve 2 years of probation and to pay costs and supervision fees.
On March 17, 2021, Richard Weber was sentenced in Erie County after entering pleas in two separate cases. In the first, Weber entered a negotiated plea to a count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (M1).  On March 14, 2018, Richard Weber contacted GEICO and reported that his 2007 Aston Martin was damaged while parked at a local Family Dollar Store. The sports car had been added to Weber’s vehicle policy just three days before Weber filed the claim. A GEICO adjuster inspected the Aston Martin and took photographs of the damage. Both Richard and his wife informed GEICO during separate recorded interviews that the Aston Martin had been in perfect condition when they added it to the policy. However, GEICO representatives reviewed a prior claim that was filed with USAA Insurance for damage to the car and determined that the damage was the same in both cases. Weber was ordered to serve 24 months of probation and to pay all costs. 
In the second case, Weber entered a negotiated plea to a count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (M1). On February 9, 2018, Weber filed a claim with USAA Insurance under his renter’s policy and reported that his custom-built computer was permanently damaged when his adolescent daughter spilled water on it. USAA asked to have the computer inspected by an independent company. Weber provided a recorded statement and supporting documentation to USAA indicating that a local computer store technician deemed the computer to be a total loss. Investigators determined that the computer store did not exist and that Weber’s roommate actually had performed the diagnostic. The roommate advised the insurer that the computer was undamaged and was in good working order. Weber’s wife confirmed that their daughter had not spilled water on the computer and that it was not damaged. USAA denied the claim.
On March 29, 2021 Edwin Puglia was sentenced in Dauphin County after entering a negotiated plea to a count of Insurance Fraud (F3).  An insurance agent contacted Progressive Insurance on September 30, 2019, and filed a vehicle accident claim on behalf of Puglia’s wife. In a subsequent conversation with the insurer, Ms. Puglia allegedly stated that while she was driving her 2013 KIA Sorrento on September 28, she lost control of the vehicle and it struck a pole. When the representative pointed out that Edwin Puglia was listed as an excluded driver on the vehicle policy, Mrs. Puglia allegedly maintained that she had been driving when the accident occurred. On October 9, Mrs. Puglia allegedly told Progressive Insurance that she had been driving home from a friend’s house around midnight on September 28 when the accident occurred. The insurer subsequently obtained a Harrisburg Police Department report of the September 28 accident, which listed Edwin Puglia as the driver of the KIA. Also, the report revealed that Edwin was charged with DUI following the accident. Edwin Puglia spoke with Progressive on October 22, and claimed that his wife was driving the vehicle and that he and another man were passengers when the crash occurred. The insurer denied the claim. Edwin Puglia was ordered to serve 1-2 years of incarceration. He received credit for time served from October 5, 2020 to March 29, 2021. He was further ordered to pay a $50 fine and court costs.
On March 29, 2021, Juan Lopez-Barco was sentenced in Dauphin County after entering a negotiated plea to five counts of Tampering with Public Records (F3) and to one count of Conspiracy (F3).  On July 13, 2020, authorities filed criminal charges against Kenneth Lopez-Barco and several other persons, along with Philadelphia area businesses. The charges indicated that between June 2017 and September 2019, the defendants used the businesses to illegally obtain and sell vehicle registrations to customers who lacked valid identification or who wanted to conceal their identities. Lopez-Barco was ordered to serve 11 ½ to 23 months of probation and a concurrent term of 5 years of probation.
On March 30, 2021, Nicolette Thompson was sentenced in Dauphin County after entering a negotiated plea of Insurance Fraud (F3) and Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (M1).  On June 11, 2019, Thompson obtained a Progressive Insurance personal auto policy. Thompson’s significant other was listed as an excluded driver on the policy. On November 30, 2019, at approximately 8:50 PM, Thompson’s vehicle was involved a two-vehicle accident. At approximately 9:24 PM the driver of the other involved vehicle notified Progressive of the accident and reported that the other driver, a male, left the scene because he didn’t have a valid driver’s license. The driver further stated to Progressive that the male returned a short time later with a female, later identified as Thompson. On December 5, 2019, a Progressive claims representative contacted Thompson regarding the accident. While discussing the facts of the loss, Thompson continued to maintain that she was the driver of her insured vehicle when the accident occurred. Progressive denied the claim. Thompson was ordered to serve 12 months of probation for each count. She was further ordered to perform 50 hours of community service, pay $250 in penalties, along with a $100 fine and costs of prosecution.
On March 30, 2021, Aleisha Sampson was sentenced in York County after entering a negotiated plea to one count each of Insurance Fraud (M1), Theft by Deception (F3) and Forgery (M1).  Between June 29, 2016 and January 5, 2017, licensed insurance producer Sampson obtained more than $4,000 in advanced commissions and bonuses from American Income Life Insurance to which she was not entitled. An investigation revealed that Sampson approached existing American Income Life Insurance customers and offered to upgrade their coverage at little or no additional cost. According to the complaint, 11 of those customers alleged that the agent made misrepresentations about the coverage or its cost. American Income Life Insurance terminated Sampson’s contract in 2017 and notified the PA Department of Insurance. Sampson was ordered to serve 23 months of supervised probation with the first 6 months under home confinement with electronic monitoring. She was further ordered to serve a consecutive term of 4 years of supervised probation, undergo drug and alcohol evaluation, perform 100 hours of community service, and to pay restitution to American Income Life in the amount of $3,828.76. Sampson was also ordered to pay court costs.
On March 31, 2021, Miqual Ford was sentenced in Allegheny County after entering a negotiated plea to a count of Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception (M1).  On May 24, 2020, at 3:00 AM, Ford was driving her uninsured vehicle when it struck a pole. Later that same day, at 6:49 PM, Ford purchased a Progressive automobile insurance policy. On May 27, Ford filed a claim with Progressive and stated that the accident occurred on May 26, 2020 at 1:30 PM. A subsequent review of the police report and an interview with a representative of the company that towed Ford’s vehicle revealed that the crash occurred prior to the policy inception. Progressive denied the $3,546.00 claim. Ford was sentenced to a term of 18 months of probation, ordered to complete 50 hours of community service, and pay court costs.
(ARD) Dispositions

During the month of March, seven additional defendants received Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). 

Anti-Fraud Compliance - Reporting of insurance Fraud to Law Enforcement Agency

Pennsylvania Bulletin Notice 2016-04 (issued April 30, 2016) reminded insurers of their obligations to report suspected arson or insurance fraud to law enforcement agencies within the Commonwealth.  The bulletin also announced a decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance to allow licensees to satisfy their reporting obligation when they electronically submit reports of suspected fraud to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
 
On July 6, 2017, Pennsylvania began participating in this online service which enables member companies to electronically forward reports of suspected fraud to the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section or other appropriate law enforcement agencies at the same time the companies report suspicious claims to the NICB. NOTE: The NICB is not a law enforcement agency. Therefore, a licensee cannot satisfy the fraud reporting requirement by submitting a non-electronic (paper) referral only to the NICB.
 
Important: When utilizing electronic filing through NICB, users should take careful note of the provided instructions regarding the “Party” to a claim.  Information entered about a Party will only be transmitted to law enforcement if users select one of two options: “This Party was subject to an SIU investigation” or “This Party was subject to an enforcement action.”  Some users have missed this notation about individual Party data and consequently have submitted incomplete information to law enforcement.

This newsletter was produced by the PA Office of Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section and edited by Senior Deputy Attorney General John T. Dickinson.

Copyright © 2018 Office of Attorney General 
All rights reserved.


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