Group helped stage Levittown crash in September 2013 with rented U-Haul van and claimed neck and back pain
MINEOLA, N.Y. – Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the arrest today of three people connected to an insurance scam in which they allegedly staged an accident in Levittown in September 2013.
The defendants Erin Clyne, 29, of Rockville Center; Tiffany Dertinger, 22, of Massapequa and Michael Lopez, 25, of Massapequa, were arraigned on September 30th, 2015 Nassau County District Court Judge Paul Meli. Clyne and Dertinger were released on their own recognizance. Lopez was conditionally released to the Department of Probation. The defendants are due back in court on October 2.
“The defendants allegedly staged a crash and pretended to have injuries, but their scheme began to unravel once investigators saw through their foolhardy plan,” Acting DA Singas said. “Insurance fraud is all too common in Nassau County and these actions raise rates for honest policyholders.”
Dertinger and Lopez were charged with Insurance Fraud in the 4th Degree (an E felony), Falsifying Business Records in the 1st Degree (an E felony) and Conspiracy in the 6th Degree (a B misdemeanor). Clyne was charged with Insurance Fraud in the 4th Degree (an E felony) and Conspiracy in the 6th Degree (a B misdemeanor).
Another defendant, Steven Baptiste, was arraigned on the same charges as Dertinger and Lopez on September 3rd, 2015 in the Nassau County District Court before the Honorable Judge James Darcy. Bail was set in the amount of $2000 bond or $1000 cash. His next court date is October 9th, 2015.
Baptiste, Dertinger and Clyne face a maximum of 1 1/3 years to 4 years in prison on the top charge. Lopez faces a maximum of 2 to 4 years on the top charge. The investigation is ongoing.
Acting DA Singas said that defendant Steven Baptiste allegedly organized and staged a motor vehicle accident with the other defendants on September 6, 2013 at approximately 5:30 pm at the intersection of Division Avenue and School House Road in Levittown.
According to the police report, a 2013 U-Haul truck that was rented and operated by Erin Clyne struck a 2002 Mitsubishi which was owned and operated by Tiffany Dertinger. The report noted that the passengers in defendant Dertinger’s car included defendants Steven Baptiste and Michael Lopez. The report also noted that no one was injured in the accident and that there was minimal damage to both vehicles. No ambulance was required and the vehicles were removed by the drivers.
On September 27, 2013, Republican West Insurance (RepWest), the insurance underwriter for U-Haul, received a claim submitted on behalf of a co-conspirator for no-fault insurance benefits. On October 7, Traveler’s Insurance Company which insured the Mitsubishi, received claims submitted on behalf of defendants Baptiste, Dertinger, and Lopez for no-fault insurance benefits as well. In filing their claims, Baptiste, Dertinger, and Lopez stated that they had neck and back pain as a result of being struck in the rear by another vehicle on September 6, 2013.
One co-conspirator submitted a bill to an insurance company for orthopedic treatment received on September 27, 2013 in the amount of $1,466.28. Dertinger also submitted a claim for property damage to her Mitsubishi in the amount of $673.
RepWest investigators discovered that the accident had been planned and orchestrated by Baptiste, who enlisted the other defendants into the criminal conspiracy. The investigators also determined that the injuries claimed were nonexistent and the Mitsubishi was not damaged.
The case was then referred to the DA’s Office by RepWest and DA Investigators then conducted an investigation which gathered additional evidence establishing the criminal conspiracy and other related crimes committed by the defendants.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Heid of Acting DA Singas’ Government and Consumer Frauds Bureau is prosecuting the case. The defendants were represented by Legal Aid at the arraignment.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.