More must be done to combat auto insurance fraud

Queens residents are plagued with high taxes, high home foreclosures and high auto insurance rates — all making it hard to make ends meet, whether they are hardworking middle-class folks trying to raise a family or seniors on fixed incomes.

High taxes are the result of years of excessive spending and a failure to prioritize. High foreclosure rates are the result of a myriad of factors, including the Obama economy and bad loans. We need to address these problems and implement common-sense legislation to enable us to control public spending and get the private sector economy moving again.

High auto insurance premiums in Queens result from a number of factors, including Queens having been the auto theft capital of the nation and rampant auto insurance fraud. The NYPD has taken great strides in tackling fraud, and I commend it for its efforts. We need to support the NYPD with resources and, where it makes sense, enhancements to the penal code. This requires legislative action.

Auto insurance fraud literally costs New Yorkers more than a billion dollars a years. While the financial cost is shocking, even more troublesome is that this activity feeds organized crime and endangers life and limb.

Too often tragedy must strike for our state Legislature to act, and tragedy strikes when it comes to auto insurance fraud. For instance, a 71-year-old grandmother was killed in Queens in 2003 as a result of a staged auto accident. Alice Ross was on her way to her daughter’s house when she was intentionally struck from behind by a vehicle carrying three men looking to stage an accident.

The impact forced her off the road, where she struck a tree and was killed. The three perpetrators were taken to a medical center, where they feigned an assortment of injuries in order to collect on phony injury claims.

Too often women and elderly drivers are targeted for these accidents by auto insurance scammers.

The state Senate recently, on the ninth anniversary of Ross’ death, passed legislation S.1685. Sen. James Seward’s (R-Oneonta) bill would establish a new felony-level crime of staging a motor vehicle accident.

A person who operates a car and intentionally causes a collision with intent to commit insurance fraud would now face the charge of staging a motor vehicle accident. It would be a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Another passed measure, S.4507B, would enable insurance companies to retroactively cancel policies taken out by people who commit fraud. This will take away the incentive for committing these crimes.

The Republican-controlled Senate has also passed legislation — S.2004 — that would make the use of runners illegal in New York. A “runner” is a person who steers sham patients to participate in insurance fraud, thereby driving up premiums for everyone.

It is time the Democratic-controlled state Assembly take action on these bills and help safeguard the lives and property of Queens residents. Doing so will help bring down insurance premiums, tackle crime and help make our streets safer.

Juan D. Reyes


American Eagle Republican Club

Forest Hills Gardens

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