An East Quogue man has been accused of being the ringleader of an alleged scheme to sell fraudulent car insurance to members of the Hispanic immigrant community, Suffolk County prosecutors said.
Eddy Belteton-Reyes, 45, was charged with scheme to defraud, criminal possession of a forged instrument, and grand larceny, all of which are felonies, and misdemeanor counts of petty larceny. Facing similar charges is 41-year-old Juan Carlos Zarate Rodriguez of Riverhead, who was one of five people arrested in the case.
“These defendants were not only stealing thousands of dollars from residents, but leaving them unprotected by insurance,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini, noting that the scheme crossed state lines. “Because of this fraudulent scheme, we have potentially hundreds of Suffolk County residents on the roads who believe they have insurance coverage when in fact they do not, so we are asking anyone who believes he or she is a victim of this scheme to please contact law enforcement.”
Acting on a tip, Southampton Town Police launched the probe in 2019 into a fraudulent company called Protect Auto Insurance Company. The case grew into a joint investigation involving New York State police, Suffolk County police, investigators in Sini’s office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, National Insurance Crimes Bureau, state Department of Motor Vehicles, state Department of Financial Services, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Chesterfield County Police Department in Virginia. Investigators used wiretaps, aerial, and electronic surveillance to gather evidence.
Martinez registered vehicles belonging to Suffolk residents in the state of Virginia and obtained Virginia license plates and registrations for the vehicles and Rodriguez altered New York State titles in order to obtain titles for the vehicles in Virginia, prosecutors said. Victims provided foreign passports, the vehicle’s title, and paid between $800 and $1,200 up-front payment in order to receive the documents, authorities said.
A purported representative of the fraudulent insurance company then contacted the victims to set up their accounts, with $80 monthly premiums required to be paid in the form of cash, credit cards, PayPal, Zelle, gift cards or money orders, which were collected in person, according to investigators.
When victims were involved in a crash or other issue that required insurance, the suspects allegedly created excuses as to why the incidents were not covered, including claiming that the driver was at fault or that the insurance coverage was only available to Virginia residents, prosecutors said
Two other Suffolk men and a woman from Virginia were also charged in the case. Belteton-Reyes and Rodriguez were released without bail after being arraigned Friday at Southampton Town Justice Court. Attorney information for the suspects was not immediately available.
Investigators have identified more than 120 victims so far. Anyone who believes they are a victim of this alleged scheme is urged to contact the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office’s Financial Investigations & Money Laundering Bureau by calling 631-853-4232 or by emailing [email protected].