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Fraud Suspect Arrested, Preyed on Senior Citizens Who Thought They Were Purchasing Legitimate Coverage

Superintendent Gregory V. Serio today announced the arrest of Luis Estrella, 51, of Brooklyn, New York, for insurance fraud for the fraudulent sale of bogus automobile insurance coverage and advised individuals who purchased insurance through Mr. Estrella or the Ariel Travel Agency to verify the policy’s validity by contacting the insurance carrier.

"It is important if any consumers believe that they have a policy from Ariel Travel Agency or Luis Estrella to call the insurance company to verify that you policy is valid," Serio said. "If you have problems verifying this information contact the Department 212-480-6400 and we will assist you."

It is alleged that Mr. Estrella, whose licensed to sell insurance was revoked in 1999, sold bogus auto insurance policies to individuals, several of whom were senior citizens in the Hispanic community near the Ariel Travel Agency in Brooklyn, NY. In addition, some of the consumers learned that their policies were not valid only after they were involved in motor vehicle accidents.

Mr. Estrella was arraigned and released on his own recognizance. If convicted of these charges, he faces up to seven years in prison on each count. The arrest is the result of a joint investigation conducted by the Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau and the New York Police Department.

The following suggestions will help ensure that you get the insurance coverage you pay for:

  • Ensure that the agent or broker is licensed. All are required to be licensed by the New York State Insurance Department. That license is required to be prominently displayed at the producer’s office. If you do not see a license, ask for it. Read it carefully to be sure it contains all the necessary information, such as the agent or broker’s name, address and date of issue. Be sure to check the expiration date. If there is any doubt, you can verify that an individual or company is licensed by calling the Licensing Services Bureau at 518 474 6630.
  • If at all possible, pay by check or money order made payable to the licensed broker, agent or insurance company. Never make a check or money order payable to someone whose name does not appear on the license. The check should indicate the purpose of the payment, e.g. auto insurance.
  • If you must pay in cash, get a detailed receipt signed by the agent or broker. The receipt should include the date, the amount paid and the type of coverage purchased, as well as the producer’s name and address. Never accept a receipt that does not contain this information.
  • Take copies of all pertinent information. Do not leave the office without copies of all documents that you signed, most importantly, the insurance application.
  • Once you have been issued an insurance identification card, call the insurance carrier whose name appears on the card to verify that the type and amount of coverage you paid for actually exists.

"The arrest of Mr. Estrella exemplifies the commitment of the Insurance Department and the New York Police Department in protecting New Yorkers from con artists like this who prey on innocent senior citizens," added Serio.

If you discover that you have been issued a fraudulent insurance identification card, call the New York State Insurance Department Frauds Bureau and report it – 1-800-NYFRAUD. If you have insurance problems that are not fraud related, contact the Department’s Consumer Services Bureau at 1-800-342-3736.

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