Collision With The Law
Crooked Body Shop Stung By NYPD
That’s what one official is calling the owner, manager and employees of a Far Rockaway auto-body shop who were indicted this week following an undercover fraud investigation.
Six defendants from Al’s Body Shop and Garage, Inc., aka Rizzo’s, located at 10-16 Beach 19 Street, are accused of plotting with car owners to rip off insurance companies. Police say the scammers defrauded two insurance companies out of more than $17,000 in less than two years.
The scam, according to Queens D.A. Richard Brown, involved stripping cars of their priciest parts and then reporting to police that the cars were vandalized. After reaching repair settlements with the insurance companies, Brown said, the original parts were reinstalled. The profits, he said, were shared among the defendants, car owners and those who sought out people willing to participate in the scam.
"Auto insurance fraud is a crime of opportunity that drives up insurance rates for all of us…" Brown said.
The owner of the shop, Lisaleah Perez Rizzo, 38, of Pennsylvania, is already serving time in her home state on unrelated charges, according to the district attorney’s office. Only one of the defendants had been arrested at press time, David Smith, 45, of 420 Beach 64 St. The others are: Anthony Perez, 40, of 65-29 Bayfield Ave.; Andy Perez, identified only as the shop owner’s brother; Allen Borland, 41, of 1360 Bay 24 St.; and Luis Gonzalez, 34, of 301 Beach 84 St.
The defendants are charged with insurance fraud, grand larceny, falsifying business records and scheming to defraud. They each face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
The investigation began in September of 2001 after New York City Police Department Auto Crime Division detectives received information about the shop. What followed was a sting operation, including "extensive surveillance."
This is not the first time the shop has been accused of breaking the law. The previous owner, the deceased husband of the current owner, was convicted of fraud and sent to prison in 1992 for a similar scheme, according to Brown.
The authorities "caught these fraudsters up to their old tricks and put an end to their scheme," said New York State Insurance Department Superintendent Gregory V. Serio.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Bernadette K. Ford of the Economic Crimes Bureau.