FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

 

Bay Ridge Insurance Agent Indicted On Hate Crime Charges
For Allegedly Targeting Elderly Victims in Financial Fraud

Defendant Allegedly Stole $2.5 Million in Retirement Plans and Life Savings From 12 Victims Ages 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, together with New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, today announced that a Staten Island man with a business in Bay Ridge has been arraigned on a 64-count indictment in which he is charged with grand larceny as a hate crime and other charges for allegedly targeting vulnerable, elderly victims and scamming them out of more than $2.5 million in hard-earned savings.

District Attorney Thompson said, “This defendant allegedly took advantage of some of society’s most vulnerable victims, whom he targeted because of their age. He held himself out as a savvy investor and trusted advisor, when in fact he was allegedly nothing more than a crook. These victims lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of their life savings at a time when they need it most. We will now prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.”

Commissioner Bratton said, “As alleged, this individual violated the trust of his clients, pocketed millions of dollars, and denied his victims their savings. I would like to thank Detective Mark Lombardo of the 68 Precinct squad and the investigators of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for exposing this individual and holding him responsible for his actions.”

The District Attorney said that the defendant, Paul Simoneschi, 69, of 57 Benedict Avenue, Staten Island, was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 64-count indictment in which he is charged with two counts of first-degree scheme to defraud, one count of first-degree money laundering, 13 counts of second-degree grand larceny as a hate crime, 13 counts of second-degree grand larceny, 28 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, four counts of third-degree grand larceny and three counts of third-degree grand larceny as a hate crime. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, between June 30, 2009 and June 14, 2014, the defendant, who is a licensed insurance agent and financial planner, owned and operated Simmons Planning Group & Agency Inc., located at 8403 7th Avenue, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and sold insurance policies and annuities to his clients.

The defendant allegedly developed long-term relationships with some of these clients, including senior citizens who were not financially savvy, according to the indictment, and over time gained the trust of his clients. Some of the clients were Italian immigrants whom he spoke to in Italian. The investigation revealed that Simoneschi allegedly stole from his clients by various means, including:

    • Recommending that they surrender their insurance policies and invest the money with him. Instead of investing the money, he allegedly stole it by depositing it into his accounts that he controlled and using the money for himself.
    • In other instances, he allegedly surrendered his victims’ insurance policies without their permission or knowledge, forging their names and subsequently depositing the checks into accounts that he controlled.

The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, Simoneschi tried to conceal his crimes by providing false documents to many of his victims, including copies of “new” policies opened on their behalf. At times, he allegedly gave them checks purported to be distributions from their policies or accounts, but which were actually checks from other accounts he controlled. In total, he allegedly stole $2.5 million from 13 victims, 12 of whom were in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. The victims lost amounts ranging from $12,000 to $575,000.

The District Attorney said that the alleged scheme was discovered after the defendant contacted one of his victims to tell the victim that he should reinvest his money in a new policy. The victim allegedly declined the offer, but later discovered that his account had been raided and that only $2,000 remained when the balance should have been more than $300,000. He reported the matter to police. An investigation discovered the additional victims, who had not been aware that they had been victimized. Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this defendant is urged to call the District Attorney’s Action Center at 718-250-2340.

The case was investigated by Detective Mark Lombardo of the New York City Police Department’s 68th precinct detective squad, under the supervision of Captain Aaron Klein and Sergeant Regina Debellis.

It was additionally investigated by Detective Investigator Hubert Dixon and Supervising Detective Investigator Robert Addonizio, of the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau, under the overall supervision Chief Investigator Richard Bellucci. Financial Investigators Ludwig Sanchez and Shaakira Calnick, also of the DA’s Office, assisted in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Marie Leonardi and Heidi Bausk of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Felice Sontupe, Chief of the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

#

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.