Twelve charged in $20 million “Operation Vacant Lot” insurance coverage fraud case
The company reached out to the company after officials from the New Jersey Automotive Insurance Plan saw a surge in commercial truck insurance claims that indicated the trucks were in the garage at Phillipsburg & Easton Heavy Duty Truck Repair along Route 22 Authorities to investigate the matter. Warren and Sussex Counties Prosecutors have jointly launched Operation Vacant Lot to investigate the matter.
Investigators found that while the truck stop could only accommodate about 30 trucks, nearly 400 oil rigs, representing about 170 trucking companies, claimed to be parked in the parking lot.
Prosecutors said the garages in the Warren and Sussex area – where the truck stop is located – have given trucking companies the lowest possible insurance rates among the 40 regions of New Jersey. Prosecutors added that these truck operators reportedly managed to secure the parking lot with the help of insurance agents at cheap insurance rates who are motivated to earn a commission through the program.
According to prosecutors, the plan allegedly started at the insurance agent level. When a commercial vehicle owner contacted an agent participating in the scheme for a policy and the agent came back with a high premium offer, offered the vehicle owner the option to park at Phillipsburg & Easton Heavy Duty Truck Repair, where the prices are some of the lowest in the state. The agents would also allegedly assure truck owners that they don’t even have to physically park their vehicles on site and that the information is only for the insurance company.
The authorities said that the owner of the Truck Stop, Hardeep “Ruben” Dhanjal, was involved in the fraud ring. Ruben is said to have informed the insurance companies that the trucks were parked on site and that they would even issue a receipt in return for payment.
However, investigators’ surveillance revealed that vehicles allegedly parked at the truck stop were not even there. Some of the trucks were also found to have come from much more distant locations, such as New York State and North Carolina.
In addition to Ruben, 11 other people associated with the system were charged, WFMZ – 69 News reported. They are: Jenny Cayo from Fairview, NJ; Lazaro J. Liria, Fords, NJ; Denis R. Perez, Union, NJ; Alba R. Ruiz-Devltialobos of Union City, NJ; Freddie Tabares, Scotch Plains, NJ; Gloria A. Beltran, Elizabeth, NJ; Anthony J. Debellis, Oakland, NJ; Tatiana Navarro from Sayreville, NJ; Gabriel L. Ubides, Drive Clark, NJ; Carmen E. Cajilema-Simpson of Wayne, NJ; and David Trevieso of Rochelle Park, NJ.
Warren County Attorney James L. Pfeiffer said in a press release earlier this week that any of the charges can be punished with up to 10 years imprisonment.
A reporter for the local newspaper The Express-Times approached Phillipsburg & Easton Heavy Duty Truck Repair for comment, but was received with a full voicemail and was unable to leave a message.