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James J. Wrynn    Superintendent of Insurance    25 Beaver Street  New York, N.Y. 10004

ISSUED 7/08/2010 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THREE CHARGED WITH STEALING NEARLY $500,000 FROM INSURERS BY FORGING AND CASHING CHECKS OVER NEARLY 10-YEAR PERIOD

Colonie police arrested three people June 30 for stealing nearly $500,000 from two insurance companies by forging and cashing claims checks in a scheme that ran nearly 10 years before it was discovered.

Lisa Kline, 42, of Albany; April Martin, 37, of Colonie; and Harry Mercado, 36, of Albany, were arraigned in Town of Colonie Court after surrendering to police. They were released under supervision of probation pending a hearing.

A joint investigation by Colonie police and the New York State Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau revealed that Kline enlisted Martin and Mercado to cash checks made out to legitimate claimants who were unaware the checks had been issued.

The scheme was carried out while Kline was employed as a claims examiner by Progressive Insurance Company between 2000 and 2006 and later when she worked for Mercury Insurance Company. She was fired last December.

The three are accused of stealing approximately $122,000 from Progressive and $352,000 from Mercury.

According to investigators, the scheme went undetected because legitimate claims were paid to policyholders before Kline would issue insurance company checks for supplemental payments to the policyholders. She used fake claims numbers, or in some cases, no claims numbers on the checks. She would then forge claimants’ signatures and countersign checks, making them payable to herself, or hand the checks over to Martin or Mercado to do the same.

The scheme was uncovered when a bank clerk noticed an unusual number of checks bearing different claimants’ names being countersigned and cashed by Kline for deposit into her personal bank account.

Insurance company audits found that most of the checks cashed were in the neighborhood of around $1,800.

The money stolen from Mercury led to the following felony charges against the three:

Charges for the money stolen from Progressive are still pending.

The investigation was carried out under the supervision of Colonie police Lt. Robert Winn by police Investigator Kevin Terry and Frauds Bureau Investigator Phil D’Angelo.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney John Czajka.

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