An Elmwood Park woman is facing four years in state prison after she collected $53,800 in fraudulent insurance claims for purported losses following Superstorm Sandy and filing false bankruptcy application, authorities said.
Katreecea Cline, 49 of Elmwood Park, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree insurance fraud and one count of second-degree fraud by insolvency in a hearing before Superior Court Judge James J. Guida in Bergen County, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced.
Cline admitted she submitted fake and altered receipts to her insurance company supporting claims alleging that items in her apartment in Elmwood Park, in her son’s dorm room and stored at her brother’s home in Keansburg were damaged as a result of Superstorm Sandy, authorities said.
“At a time when so many New Jersey residents were suffering the devastating impact of Superstorm Sandy, this defendant used fraud and deceit to cash in on the crisis,” the attorney general said.
“As a result of her guilty plea, the defendant is now facing prison time for illegally siphoning insurance funds in the wake of this catastrophic event.
Between October 2012 and November 2013, Cline submitted property damage insurance claims to United States Automobile Association (USAA) fraudulently claiming losses resulting from Superstorm Sandy, according to Grewal.
Over the course of the claim, USAA paid Cline a total of $53,800, the maximum allowable benefit for property damage, he said.
On May 9, 2013, Cline again committed insurance fraud by claiming her RV was broken into and numerous pieces of construction equipment and tools stored in the RV, and valued at approximately $20,000, had been stolen, Grewal said. USAA allegedly paid $3,000 for that claim.
On Nov. 25, 2012, Cline and her husband Stevie Mitchell signed a United States Bankruptcy Court voluntary petition for bankruptcy, in which they asserted being $209,874 in debt and had only $36,905 in assets, according to Grewal.
Cline admitted that in filing the bankruptcy application, she failed to report that the couple had property interest in the outcome of the USAA claims regarding Superstorm Sandy and that they had a bank account with financial institution Metabank, authorities said.
On Feb. 22, 2013, a federal bankruptcy court judge accepted the couple’s bankruptcy petition and discharged approximately $175,000 worth of debt, the attorney general said.
Charges filed against Mitchell in connection with the fraudulent bankruptcy application will be dismissed at the time of Cline’s sentencing, which is scheduled for June 29, Grewal said.
Deputy Attorney General Colin Keiffer represented the State in the plea hearing. Detectives Kahlil McGrady and Kristi Procaccino conducted the investigation with assistance from Detective Sgt. Jarek Pyrzanowski, Detective Megan Flanagan and Detective Terrence Buie.
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