Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini, the New York State Police, the Suffolk County Police Department and the Southampton Town Police Department have announced the arrest of five individuals in connection with an alleged scheme to sell fraudulent car insurance to members of the Hispanic immigrant community.
“Due to law enforcement’s efforts, we have ended a scheme perpetrated by greedy, bad actors preying upon vulnerable individuals, which had the potential of putting the entire community at risk. These defendants were not only stealing thousands of dollars from residents, but leaving them unprotected by insurance,” District Attorney Sini said. “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. This was a complex scheme that crossed state lines, but in collaboration with our local, state and federal partners, we were able to unravel this conspiracy and identify the perpetrators. I thank all of the agencies involved for their assistance with the investigation and arrests.”
Eddy Belteton-Reyes, 45, of East Quogue, is charged with two counts of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony; Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument Second Degree, a class D felony; Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony; seven counts of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony; and seven counts of Petit Larceny, a class A misdemeanor.
Alin Zoel Belteton-Reyes, 40, of Riverhead, is charged with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, two counts of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument Second Degree, a class D felony.
Juan Carlos Zarate Rodriguez, 41, of Deer Park, is charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument Second Degree, a class D felony.
Ernesto Chavez Benitez, 44, of Bay Shore, is charged with four counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony.
Dina Martinez, 36, of Richmond, Virginia, is charged with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony.
In December 2019, the Southampton Town Police Department launched an investigation into an alleged scheme by Eddy Belteton-Reyes and his associates to steal money from Hispanic victims by purporting to provide them with automobile insurance coverage through a fraudulent company called “Protect Auto Insurance Company.”
The investigation expanded in 2020 to include the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, New York State Police and Suffolk County Police Department as well as the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, National Insurance Crimes Bureau, NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, NYS Department of Financial Services, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Chesterfield County Police Department in Virginia. It involved the use of court-authorized eavesdropping and search warrants as well as physical, aerial and electronic surveillance.
The investigation revealed that the defendants worked with Martinez who would allegedly register motor vehicles belonging to Suffolk County residents in the state of Virginia and obtain Virginia license plates and registrations for the vehicles. Fraudulent inspection stickers from the State of Virginia were also sometimes provided to victims of the scheme. Juan Carlos Zarate Rodriguez allegedly assisted the co-defendants by altering New York State titles in order to obtain titles for the vehicles in Virginia.
In order to obtain the documentation and license plates, victims were required to provide foreign passports or identification as well as an original title and between $800 and $1,200 up-front payment.
Victims would then be contacted by a purported representative of Protect Auto Insurance Company to set up their insurance accounts. The defendants allegedly accepted payment for the fraudulent insurance premiums in the form of cash, credit cards, PayPal, Zelle, gift cards or money orders. Victims were charged an average of approximately $80 a month for the purported insurance. Alin Zoel Belteton-Reyes would allegedly collect cash payments from victims in-person on Wednesdays and Saturdays, utilizing a portable printer in his vehicle to provide victims with receipts to further legitimize the scheme.
The investigation revealed that when victims were involved in motor vehicle crashes or if other issues arose, Eddy Belteton-Reyes and Alin Zoel Belteton-Reyes would allegedly create excuses as to why the incidents were not eligible for insurance coverage, including claiming that the driver was at fault or that the insurance coverage was only available to Virginia residents.
Pursuant to the investigation, search warrants were executed at various locations related to the defendants yesterday in both New York and Virginia. The locations included the residences of both Eddy Belteton-Reyes and Alin Zoel Belteton-Reyes, from which law enforcement recovered 14 Virginia license plates; Virginia inspection stickers; approximately $11,545 cash; multiple desktop and mobile printers; and various documents connected to the alleged scheme, including passports, DMV paperwork, vehicle titles and registrations, and Protect Auto Insurance Company documents. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service also intercepted a package from Alin Zoel Belteton-Reyes to Martinez that contained $2,980 in cash, Virginia titles, New York State titles, three passports, and copies of Virginia registrations.
Through the investigation, more than 120 victims have been identified to date. District Attorney Sini urges anyone who believes he or she is a victim of this alleged scheme to contact the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s Financial Investigations & Money Laundering Bureau by calling 631-853-4232 or by emailing InfoDA@suffolkcountyny.gov.
“These arrests are a direct result of the cooperative and interactive efforts of the many agencies involved in this investigation,” said Acting New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen. “In this case, we bring to justice, numerous individuals who defrauded unsuspecting victims and made our roads dangerous for other drivers with unregistered and uninsured drivers on the road. These arrests send a clear message that this type of fraud will be investigated thoroughly and that perpetrators will be fully prosecuted. Thank you to our state, local and federal partners for their dedication, and we look forward to partnering again to put an end to these types of practices.”
“This is another example of how collaboration works to disband criminal enterprises that take advantage of our residents,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “Not only did this fraudulent scheme target members of the Hispanic immigrant community by stealing their money and providing them with a false sense of security—they put every driver in harm’s way. I would like to commend all the agencies involved to ensure these individuals do not victimize any more people.”
“These defendants prayed on hundreds vulnerable unsuspecting individuals stealing their money while leaving them with a false sense of security,” Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said. “The Southampton Town Police Department initiated its investigation from a single complaint and is thankful to all our law enforcement partners and those who cooperated with the investigation who worked together for months to bring these individuals to justice.”
“This was a crime of greed and opportunity. These individuals saw a need, and instead of assisting their ‘clients,’ they chose to devise a scheme to defraud; specifically targeting those individuals who trusted in them and their bogus insurance company. These schemes are always on the radar of law enforcement and through the collaboration and investigative prowess of the agencies involved in this case, these individuals will now be held accountable for their illegal activity,” said U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett.
“These individuals, motivated by selfishness and greed, took advantage of people who were trying to do the right thing by getting insured, and instead placed them in a position of personal and monetary risk. On behalf of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), we would like to thank the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office for their tireless efforts to protect consumers from insurance crime. Throughout my time at NICB and rising from case agent to Assistant Director with the FBI, partnerships such as this with Suffolk County have been and continue to be key in resolving and preventing crimes,” said NICB Chief Operating Officer Timothy R. Slater.
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder said, “The alleged actions of these individuals not only took advantage of innocent New Yorkers but had the potential to put many others on our roadways at risk. The DMV is happy to have assisted in this investigation and is grateful to our partners in law enforcement for detecting and ending this scheme.”
“These five individuals put profits over people by selling bogus auto insurance to vulnerable immigrants,” said New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell. “Thanks to the joint investigative efforts of the New York State Department of Financial Services and our law enforcement counterparts, the perpetrators have been arrested to pay the price for their fraudulent scheme.”
“We welcome opportunities to work with our law enforcement partners throughout the nation and we are proud to have been part of the collaborative effort that brought this case to a successful resolution,” said Col. Jeffrey S. Katz, chief of the Chesterfield County Police Department in Virginia.
Eddy Belteton-Reyes, Alin Zoel Belteton-Reyes and Rodriguez were arraigned on the charges today in Southampton Town Justice Court and were released on their own recognizance. Eddy Belteton-Reyes and Alin Zoel Belteton-Reyes were required to surrender their passports and are due back in court on March 4. Rodriguez is due back in court on March 3. Benitez was arraigned today in First District Court and was released on his own recognizance. He is due back in court on March 1. Martinez will be arraigned at a later date.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Shiry Gaash, Attorney-in-Charge of the Financial Investigations & Money Laundering Bureau’s Labor Crimes Unit.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.