A.G. Schneiderman Announces Conviction After Trial Of Major Insurance Fraudster
Defendant Raja Ishtiaq Convicted Of 22 Counts In Indictment Charging Massive Scheme To Defraud After 5-Week Jury Trial
Defendant Forged Documents And Fraudulently Obtained Thousands Of Dollars In Commercial Policies And Dozens Of TLC Licenses
Schneiderman: This Verdict Sends A Strong Message That The People of New York Will Not Tolerate Insurance Fraud
NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the conviction after trial of two-time fraudster Raja Ishtiaq for his role in a massive scheme to fraudulently obtain commercial car insurance policies and New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) licenses. Over a period spanning almost five years, the defendant and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained thousands of dollars in discounted insurance policies and dozens of TLC licenses by forging documents. The defendant committed his crimes while still on probation after a 2010 conviction stemming from similar conduct.
After a 5-week jury trial, which included the testimony of 15 witnesses and the admission of hundreds of documents, a Queens County jury found the defendant guilty of 22 of the 34 felonies charged. The jury convicted Ishtiaq of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class E felony), Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class D felony) and multiple counts of Insurance Fraud in the Third Degree (a class D felony), Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (a class D felony), Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (a class E felony) and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (a class E felony).
“Motivated by greed, Ishtiaq defrauded insurance companies, the TLC, and multiple other city and state agencies. By putting falsely registered cars on the road, he also put innocent passengers at risk,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Auto insurance fraud leads to inflated insurance rates for hard-working New Yorkers. Today’s verdict sends a clear message that we will not tolerate this type of fraud and that individuals who try to game the system and rip off the public for personal gain will be brought to justice.”
“The TLC is pleased to have played a supporting role in this investigation,” said TLC Commissioner David Yassky. “TLC licenses exist to ensure the protection of the riding public, and when the process is abused, as it was in this case, swift and decisive action sends a crucial message that such actions are invariably found and stopped.”
The evidence showed that between 2007 and 2011, Ishtiaq and his co-defendants engaged in an elaborate scheme to obtain insurance for livery cars in the names of shell corporations by submitting forged documents and making false statements to insurance carriers and brokers. By falsely representing the ownership of the cars, the type of use of the cars and the locations where the cars were kept, they were able to obtain cheaper rates. The fake documents submitted as part of the scheme included a forged utility bill and a forged Macy's bill designed to fool insurance carriers and government agencies into believing that these shell corporations were legitimate businesses that operated from certain addresses, when in fact the corporations were not legitimate and the vehicles did not operate from these addresses.
The defendant also misrepresented the use of the vehicles. For example, multiple cars were insured as airport limousines or as part of luxury limousine services operating on Long Island, when in fact they were livery cars operating in New York City. Other cars were falsely represented as being affiliated with fake bases, when in fact they were independently owned and operated. Through their fraudulent scheme, the defendants obtained thousands of dollars in commercial car insurance policies from multiple insurance carriers.
The Attorney General's investigation further revealed that, using these fraudulently obtained policies, the defendants then secured necessary licenses from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) and vehicle registrations from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). To obtain the TLC licenses, the defendants filed false and forged documents, including insurance documents, applicant affidavits, base affidavits, power of attorney forms and election of officer forms. Through the submission of false and forged documents, the defendants fraudulently obtained more than 40 TLC licenses.
Ishtiaq had been convicted by the Attorney General's Auto Insurance Fraud Unit in 2010 of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class E felony) for his involvement in another rate evasion scheme, and he is currently on probation. For his conviction in the current case, Ishtiaq faces up to 7 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced before Justice Joel L. Blumenfeld in Queens County Supreme Court on August 20.
In addition Ishtiaq, four other defendants charged in the Attorney General's original 100-count indictment have been convicted for their involvement in the scheme. Co-defendant Farhat N. Qureshi pleaded guilty to Insurance Fraud in the Third Degree (a Class D felony), co-defendant Bakry Abdelmuti pleaded guilty to Identify Theft in the First Degree (a class D felony), co-defendant Hasan Bacovic pleaded guilty to Insurance Fraud in the Fifth Degree (a class A misdemeanor) and co-defendant Vijayakumar Ramasamy pleaded guilty to Scheme to Defraud in the Second Degree (a class A misdemeanor), among other charges. These four defendants have not yet been sentenced.
The case against the final defendant charged in the indictment, Samina Ishtiaq, remains pending. The charges against Ms. Ishtiaq are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
These arrests are the culmination of a long-term investigation conducted by Attorney General Schneiderman's Automobile Insurance Fraud Unit, with the assistance of the Department of Financial Services (DFS), the TLC and DMV. The Attorney General thanks DFS Superintendent Benjamin M. Lawsky, TLC Commissioner David Yassky and DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala for their assistance in this case.
The case was investigated by Investigators Michael Beshara and Merrie Gordon, Investigator-Trainee Wilsonia Jean-Phillipe, and former Investigators Vitaly Zubry and Jennifer Oddo-McInerney, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Leonard D'Alessandro and Chief Dominick Zarrella of the Investigations Bureau, with the assistance of Angelique Meola, Supervisor of the TLC's Owners Licensing Unit, and Investigator Mark Sirkin of DFS, under the supervision of Director Frank Orlando of the Frauds Bureau and Executive Deputy Superintendent Joy Feigenbaum.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Irwin Weiss of the Auto Insurance Fraud Unit, with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General Rajiv Shah and Analysts Mikael Awake, Yuriy Kurbatov and Paul Strocko, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.
The Attorney General also thanks the New York City Marshal's Office, the New York State Department of State and the New York City Department of Finance for their assistance in this case, as well the following insurance carriers, brokers and investigators: Maya Assurance Company; Fiduciary Insurance Company of America; Kinloch Consulting Group; Transportation Insurance Brokers, and Thunderhorse Inspection Services.