Today’s news:

Insurance agent charged with fraud

A Woodside insurance agent was arrested last week for allegedly selling $50 million worth of false insurance policies to hundreds of customers, the district attorney said.

Operating from a Woodside storefront called "Blanca''s Auto Insurance - Best Deal in Town" at 64-17 Broadway, Bianca Duenas, 48, of 31 Main Parkway in Plainview, L.I., allegedly defrauded more than 100 small businesses and individuals by issuing false policies for liability, workers'' compensation and auto insurance during the past 15 months, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.

She was arrested last Thursday when police executed a search warrant at her office, leading to the seizure of 28 boxes worth of records.

"The defendant is accused of selling bogus insurance policies to trusting individuals and businesses who believed they had proper coverage when in fact they had no insurance coverage at all," Brown said. "Even though she claimed to be the ''Best Deal in Town,'' she was far from it."

Running a cash-only operation, Duenas allegedly collected between $250,000 and $500,000 from her customers to issue forged policies with existing insurance companies. State officials and the New York Police Department launched a joint investigation last year when customers discovered through the insurance companies that the policies they had purchased did not actually exist.

Duenas is charged with forgery, criminal possession of forged instruments, scheme to defraud, falsifying business records, grand larceny, insurance fraud, and fraudulent practices under workers'' compensation law, the district attorney said. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

John Burgher, the inspector general of the New York State Workers'' Compensation Board, described the case as one of the most extensive acts of workers'' compensation fraud uncovered by his office since it was opened in 1996. More than 100 bogus workers'' compensation policies issued by Duenas allegedly totaled more than $46 million.

Duenas''s license to sell insurance had been revoked in 1991.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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