BROOKLYN - prosecutors put the brakes on a pair of auto body bamboozlers who added extra damage to vehicles then over-billed insurers.
"The fraud was very clear here," District Attorney Charles Hynes said Thursday of the alleged scam at Perfect Collision in Borough Park. "The defendants were taking cars with minor damage and enhancing that."
Arrested were owner Elie Berger, 32, and his employee, Hershy Greenberger, 23.
They are accused of pounding vehicles with hammers and chisels to compound blemishes and increase their profit margin.
They would then cash refund checks from insurers and pocket the money, officials charged. When investigators raided Berger's home, they found more than $700,000 in cash - even though he had filed for public assistance. This and other findings will likely lead to more charges of tax and welfare fraud, prosecutors said.
Both mechanics were still slapped with a truckload of counts, including insurance fraud and grand larceny.
Prosecutors asked for a whopping $500,000 bail, but Berger was released on a $25,000 bond and Greenberger was freed without bail.
The courtroom was packed with more than 100 supporters from their Hasidic community.
Perfect Collision body shop operated for two years and was under investigation for most of that period, officials said, after sharp-eyed Geico assessors noticed vehicles with dubious dents.
Claim adjusters took before and after photos of the cars to prove the racket.
This type of scheme "saddles other New Yorkers with a fraud tax," Hynes noted.
Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes
today announced an indictment charging a Borough Park autobody shop, Perfect Collision, with intentionally damaging cars brought in for repairs, so it could submit inflated bills to insurance companies. Perfect Collision; its owner, Elie Berger; and his employee, Hershy Greenberger are charged with running a so-called “damage enhancement scheme” to over bill insurance companies by thousands of dollars.
In the indictment announced today, the defendants are charged with submitting inflated bills for repairs to a car insured by Geico, but prosecutors believe additional insurance companies and carriers may have been victimized as well. The investigation is continuing.
“These crooks thought they had found the ‘Perfect’ crime, but my Detective Investigators quickly put the brakes on, preventing another bogus collision.” said District Attorney Hynes. “Auto-insurance fraud costs Brooklyn residents hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in increased premiums, and my office will prosecute all such crimes to the fullest extent of the law. I would like to thank Geico, Esurance, and the National Insurance Crimes Bureau for their assistance in this investigation.”
To investigate Geico’s suspicion about Perfect Collision, KCDA Detective Investigators damaged a car’s front passenger-side fender, photographed the damage and brought the car to Perfect Collision. The indictment charges that Hershy Greenberger assured an undercover Detective Investigator that Geico would cover all the repair costs. When a Geico claims adjuster arrived to photograph the damage, it had been “enhanced”, according to the indictment, with another dent in the same fender and other damage. Greenberger and Berger are charged with making the additional damage to increase the bill and fraudulently charge Geico for the repairs. Perfect Collision is also charged with billing Geico more than $1,000 for a rental car, in an undercover’s name, even though the undercover told Greenberger that he did not want a rental car for the week of the repairs.
While another Geico claims adjuster was at Perfect Collision to photograph another car car, he happened to spot a minivan he had been assigned to photograph for the company the following day. Without notifying Perfect Collision, he took pictures of the minivan, which had little to no damage. The following day, when he returned to take official photographs for Geico’s records, there was new, extensive damage to the fender, driver side door and other areas, according to the indictment.
Detective Investigators executing search warrants on Perfect Collision and Berger’s home recovered more than $700,000 in cash, a 2011 application for public assistance claiming Berger earned $350 per
week as an employee of Perfect Collision, and business records. Evidence recovered in the searches will be used to investigate other crimes the defendants may have committed, including insurance fraud and welfare fraud. The investigation is continuing.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.
The case was investigated by Detective Investigator Glen Kenny, supervised by Deputy Chief Rackets Investigator Greg Deboer. Joseph Ponzi is Chief Rackets Investigator.
The case is being prosecuted by Joseph A. DiBenedetto, Rackets Division Deputy Bureau Chief. Michael Vecchione is Chief of the Rackets Division.
They were released on $25,000 bail.