Today’s news:

6 Queens residents charged in insurance fraud scheme

A former police officer from Howard Beach was one of six borough residents charged last week in connection with an auto insurance fraud scheme that led to the filing of phony lawsuits by residents in both Queens and Nassau counties, the state attorney general said.

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said Phillip Lowery, 32, of 91-11 164th Ave., an ex-officer with the New York Police Department, and 18 other people allegedly participated in a plot where hospital employees were paid by "steerers" for providing personal information to them about accident victims. The steerers then contacted the victims and encouraged them to consult personal injury lawyers who then allegedly filed fake lawsuits.

The six accused members of the plot from Queens were charged in Queens Criminal Court June 19 with conspiracy, a felony, Spitzer said. Those charged in addition to Lowery were: Zulia Lowery, of 91-11 164th Ave. in Howard Beach; Emil Izrailov, of 98-31 65th Rd. in Rego Park; Rosa Salazar, of 632 Beach 64th St. in Far Rockaway; Joseph DeToma, of 132-07 83rd St. in Ozone Park; and Alberto Vargas of 88-44 Sabre St. in Bellerose.

"Auto insurance fraud is a sophisticated crime that requires a sustained effort to root out," Spitzer said. "My office will continue to work with the State Insurance Department and other agencies in a sustained law enforcement effort to find and prosecute auto fraud rings that scam the system."

Spitzer said 13 additional people living in Nassau County were charged in the plot, bringing the total number nabbed in the alleged scheme to 19. The Nassau County defendants include two insurance brokers, an employee of one of the brokers, five steerers and two personal injury lawyers, Spitzer said.

According to Spitzer, Vargas, an employee of Elmhurst Hospital who has since been suspended, is alleged to have sold accident victims' personal information to some of the co-defendants. DeToma, the manager of a medical clinic affiliated with Jamaica Hospital, also allegedly provided similar information to steerers, Spitzer said.

The Lowery duo is charged in the scheme with allegedly obtaining victims' personal information and then visiting them and steering them to personal injury lawyers, Spitzer said.

Izrailov, who managed medical clinics and billed insurance companies for services that were either not necessary or never provided, was allegedly paid for referring accident victims to other members involved in the scheme, Spitzer said.

All members involved in the plot said they were affiliated with local hospitals and then told victims to fake or exaggerate their injuries in order to generate no-fault insurance claims and provide the basis for fraudulent lawsuits and settlements, Spitzer said.

The case is the result of a multi-agency investigation among Spitzer's office, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., the New York City Department of Investigation and the City of New York Hospital Police, the attorney general said.

"This case demonstrates the level of cooperation that is vital in fighting auto insurance fraud," Spitzer said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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