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Two Queens body shops busted in fraud scam: DA

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Two owners of auto body shops based in Ozone Park and Queens Village and an employee of a third shop in Rockaway Park were arrested last week in an alleged auto insurance scam, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

The three men were arrested after undercover insurance and fraud bureau investigators exposed a suspected scheme in which shop employees routinely caused additional damage to cars brought in for repairs following accidents, Brown said.

“The purpose of the alleged scam was to collect more money from various insurance companies,” he said. “This type of scheme defrauds not only the insurance companies but contributes — along with other types of insurance fraud — to higher premiums for all automobile owners.”

The DA said the men were charged with grand larceny, insurance fraud and falsifying business records. If convicted, they could each face up to seven years in prison.

Arrested were: Ronald Coppolino, 48, of 58-30 187th St., Fresh Meadows, owner of Classic Collision of Queens at 135-08 131st St., Ozone Park; Robert Coppolino, 37, of 135 W. Tiana Road, Hampton Bays, L.I., owner of All Boro Collision Specialists at 216-08 Hempstead Ave., Queens Village; and Frederick Ott, 59, of 10 W. 18th Road., Broad Channel, Rockaway Park, who works at Harbor Auto Body at 112-16 Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway, the district attorney said.

A fourth man was being sought.

When Classic Collision was asked for comment, a woman who answered hung up the telephone. At All Boro Collision Specialists in Queens Village, a woman who identified herself as Michele Martino declined to comment but said the shop in the DA’s report had no relation to her company, All Boro Collision Inc., although the two companies share the same address.

During the investigation six damaged cars were taken to the three shops. It is alleged that in each case the defendants caused extra damage to the vehicles, defrauding the companies of more than $19,000, the DA said.

At one point, in August 2000, an undercover investigator brought a damaged 1993 Cadillac Seville to Harbor Auto Body Inc. The car’s left front lamp, left wheel cap, molding and pinstripes were previously damaged and the authorities’ estimate for those repairs was $1,188, the DA said.

The investigator left the shop, which then allegedly contacted the AIG Insurance Company to estimate the damage. When an AIG adjuster viewed the car on Sept. 5, he saw extensive damage to the driver’s side of the car, the undercarriage and the suspension, in addition to the original damage, Brown said.

The adjuster estimated the total damages at $7,055, the DA said.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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