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Insurance broker accused of writing fraudulent policies for 'dollar vans'

A Queens insurance broker fraudulently wrote policies for "dollar vans," claiming the high-risk vehicles were being driven for personal use instead of carting passengers, prosecutors said Friday.

Andrew Teitelbaum, 59, allegedly falsified information on the policies to get his clients discounted rates, according to the office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Teitelbaum also allegedly put the insurance policies in the names of mystery "friends" instead of the actual drivers, according to a news release from Brown's office.

Teitelbaum, of Lakeside Lane in Westhampton, is charged with second-degree larceny, second- and third-degree insurance fraud, third-degree grand larceny, second-degree forgery, first-degree identity theft, first-degree falsifying business records and first-degree scheme to defraud.

Teitelbaum, who operated DG East Point Insurance Agency at 98-20 Metropolitan Ave. in Forest Hills, was arraigned Wednesday before Queens Criminal Court Judge Althea Drysdale.

He was released on his own recognizance and ordered to return to court on Nov. 25. If convicted, Teitelbaum faces up to 15 years in prison.

According to the criminal complaint, an undercover investigator with the State Police went to Teitelbaum's Queens office on March 16, stating clearly he wanted insurance for a "dollar van."

The vans -- some licensed, some not -- carry passengers in neighborhoods underserved by trains, buses and taxis, the release said. The drivers usually charge passengers a dollar or two.

The investigator allegedly told Teitelbaum he couldn't afford to pay a lot for the policy; Teitelbaum allegedly wrote a policy stating that the van was used as a private passenger vehicle. The defendant also put the policy in the name of the investigator's "friend," prosecutors said.

The friend's driver's license was allegedly shown and the investigator signed the friend's name. The investigator left with a policy with an annual premium of $3,000 instead of one for $8,000, Brown's office said.

On April 17, the investigator revisited Teitelbaum's office, asking for insurance for a dollar van and to make a "friend" the actual driver. On this occasion, the defendant allegedly made the vehicle a commercial commuter van, listed the operator of the vehicle as the investigator's "friend" and offered an additional discount for completion of a safe-driving course, the release said.

The defendant allegedly provided the investigator with an attendance sheet for the safe-driving course and told him he'd get a certificate in the mail. This time, the undercover investigator secured a policy with a $1,900 discounted premium.

Further investigation revealed 13 other instances between Aug. 8, 2011, and March 26, 2013, in which the defendant wrote policies for vehicles that were disguised on official documents as something other than dollar vans, Brown's office said.

Also, Progressive Insurance Co., which held the policies, began receiving various claims from individuals claiming they'd been passengers in dollar vans, according to the complaint.

Two people listed on the insurance documents as being drivers of the vans denied they were the operators. One stated she had sought insurance from the defendant years earlier and had provided personal information to him. The other individual stated he'd never even met Teitelbaum. The loss to the insurance company totaled in excess of $50,000, Brown's office said.

Teitelbaum's attorney could not be reached for comment.

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