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Bucks County, PA Insurance Co. Owner Sentenced to Prison for Fraud

A former Bucks County, PA insurance company owner helped hundreds of New York state residents pose as Pennsylvania natives in order to get them more affordable car insurance policies was sentenced to prison on Monday, Nov. 30. Michael J. Bozzi, a 48-year-old and the former owner of Bucks County Insurance in Morrisville, PA, received eight to 23 months in Bucks County prison in exchange for his plea in the case. Two other men, Joshua Green of Morrisville and Alexander Bien-Aime of Brooklyn, New York also got prison time in the case. Green received three to 23 months and Bien-Aime was sentenced to 11½ to 23 months. The sentences were handed down by Judge Jeffrey L. Finley.

During the years 2005 and 2006, according to the testimony of prosecutors in the case, the men obtained false Pennsylvania post office box numbers and home addresses in order to get Pennsylvania insurance cards for New Yorkers. Many of the New York residents involved hailed from the Little Haiti section of New York City. Bozzi's auto insurance scam defrauded insurers out of more than a half million dollars, according to prosecutors on the case.

Is This Type Of Insurance Fraud Back on the Rise?

This incident has made some auto industry leaders and pundits wonder whether this type of fraud scheme, which had not been seen since the 1990s, may be on its way back during these troubled economic times. The temptation to take part in an insurance scam such as the one put together by Bozzi has to be hard to resist for low-income people who hear about great savings on car insurance. The scam went on from January 2005 until September of 2006, and ended up involving hundreds of New York customers as it was bilking the Pennsylvania auto insurance industry out of more than $500,000.

According to testimony given during the trial, Bozzi was the mastermind behind the insurance fraud operation. Bien-Aime was paid by Bozzi to advertise cheap cars and inexpensive auto insurance policies to residents of New York City. His job was to sell the cars to the New Yorkers, and then refer them to Bozzi for the discounted car insurance policies. He had an assistant who helped him to create false addresses and post office boxes in Bucks County so that the New York City customers would appear to be legitimate Pennsylvania residents.

Though the scam did appear to be very helpful toward New York City residents, it had one big problem: if a New Yorker got into a car accident and was injured, who would pay the damages? In normal circumstances, when you have a car accident, your insurance rates might go up to compensate for the damages you receive. In this case, for damages incurred on these false Pennsylvania insurance plans, the ones who paid were Bucks County residents, in the form of higher premiums as a result of risk calculations skewed due to the false policies [1].

How Did Bozzi Pull Off Insurance Fraud Scheme?

Bozzi, along with his employee Green, was able to skirt the legal system by taking the information from hundreds of New York residents and create false insurance documentation on their behalf. The scheme lasted nearly two years until it was finally put to a stop. One lesson observers could take from all this is the relative ease with which Bozzi appeared to accomplish what he did. He seemed to have little difficulty coming up with the plan, enlisting help, and even getting customers to bite. It is unclear how much the New York customers knew about the legitimacy of the policies they were purchasing, but since auto insurance is estimated to average around four thousand dollars a year in New York City and these policies were being sold for only about $1500 each [1], they had to be aware that something was amiss.

Bozzi was a licensed insurance broker who owned his own insurance company. He had all the credentials to make himself appear legitimate. Presumably, had he been given the chance, he could have pulled over more insurance fraud schemes involving more innocent people. It is difficult to tell on the surface whether an insurance company is legitimate, whether you can trust them. You cannot just look at the company name or the credentials of the owner-this much was made evident in this case in Pennsylvania's Bucks County. Apart from the financial fallout from the scheme, perhaps the most important thing both insurers and customers can take away from the case and its aftermath is the relative ease with which it was all done. As customers, we need to be more discerning when it comes to our auto insurance coverage choices.

What Consumers Can Learn from Bucks County Insurance Scam

How can we protect ourselves from getting caught up in some kind of fraud case ourselves? As a consumer in the marketplace, you have the responsibility to fully investigate any company you decide to do business with before signing on the dotted line. While it is impossible to predict with perfect accuracy when something like this may be about to happen, there are certainly warning signs that can tell you when a company may not be on the up and up. Dig in and do some research about the company representing you for your auto insurance needs. Is it a company whose name you recognize, one that has been around for awhile? Do they have a positive reputation among local or national consumers? You can do some investigating with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer advocacy groups to get a better idea if you have your doubts.

If the company you have been working with seems to be making unbelievable promises in regards to the cost of coverage, if their pricing is way out of line with everyone else's, there is a good chance they may not be legitimate. Something may be going on behind the scenes fueling these unbelievable prices, something you may not want to be a part of. Do not fall for the first low price you come across in your search for car insurance coverage; the Bucks County insurance case has demonstrated to all that a low price is not everything when it comes to our insurance coverage. The men who sold the policies are headed to prison, the customers who bought the coverage really had no legitimate coverage at all, and the local drivers in the area where this was all going on had to pay higher rates on their insurance plans because of it all. In this case, no one won with lower prices. So be careful, and protect yourself from unsavory individuals who may be trying to capitalize on the weak national economy to entice innocent people to take part in scams like this one.

Bozzi and his associates are serving relatively short prison sentences; each of them could be out in 2010. Scams like this will continue happening because the cost of getting caught is small relative to the financial windfall that can be had. Don't be fooled into thinking you're getting a deal.

[1] http://drboyceinsurance.blogspot.com/2009/02/car-insurance-fraud-are-you-next.html Retrieved 2009-12-07.

 

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