By Courtney Dentch
Neil Foster Phillips II, 37, of Dix Hills, L.I. was accused of fabricating a man named “Dante Martin” and using that identity to cash in on three life insurance accounts by posing as the policy beneficiary, said Roslynn Mauskopf, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, which includes Queens.
Officials from the city Department of Investigations and the U.S. Postal Service worked cooperatively to determine that Phillips made up Martin's identity and allegedly opened a post office box to use as his address, Mauskopf said. Phillips also used his cell-phone number as contact information for the non-existent Martin, Mauskopf said.
Phillips, possibly working with others, allegedly used the information to open life insurance policies in Martin's name with New York Life, MetLife and John Hancock worth a total of $2.75 million, Mauskopf said.
A death certificate saying Martin died Dec. 15 was filed with the city from a funeral home where Phillips is a licensed funeral director, but it was unclear which funeral home issued the certificate, Mauskopf said. The document was signed by a male doctor using a license number belonging to a female radiologist, she said.
Phillips has worked at J. Foster Phillips Funeral Home in St. Albans, which is owned and operated by his parents, and at Emerson W. Brown Funeral Service, also in St. Albans. He also works as a guidance counselor at JHS 231 in Laurelton.
A spokesman for J. Foster Phillips Funeral Home declined to comment but said Phillips no longer works for the parlor.
Representatives from Emerson W. Brown Funeral Service were unavailable.
After Martin's purported death, a “Darryl Judge,” who was listed as the beneficiary of Martin's insurance policies, reported his death to the carriers. Judge, whom investigators believe was really Phillips, filed a notice of claim using the same address as Martin.
Judge's phone number matched a cell-phone number allegedly issued to Phillips, she said.
One of the companies, MetLife, set up a money market account worth $1 million in Judge's name and mailed him a book of blank checks, Mauskopf said. A check written for $1,001,693.44 was drawn on the money market account and made out to a woman who owns a joint bank account with Phillips at a Fleet Bank in Rosedale, the U.S. attorney said.
A Fleet Bank teller told investigators that a man who had a driver's license with Phillips' name on it deposited the check into the account, Mauskopf said.
The bank stopped payment on the check, and none of the insurance companies lost money, she said.
“To satisfy his greed, Phillips has betrayed the community he served and the students who looked up to him,” Mauskopf said. “He stands accused of an elaborate fraud, and if convicted, faces 20 years in prison.”
Phillips was arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn Friday, where U.S. Magistrate-Judge Joan Azrack denied him bail, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at email@example.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.