Monday, 28 July 2014 17:00

NYPD Alleges Stapleton Shop Added Fake Damages to Defraud Insurers During Sting, Also Charge Tax Fraud

Two brothers who own a Stapleton body shop are accused of inflating the damage on customers’ cars to pocket thousands in insurance money, police allege. The scheme is said to have taken place at Dema’s Auto Center at 394-396 Bay St., which is owned by Talat Dema, 60, and Argetim Dema, 50, according to a criminal complaint written against both men. Authorities also allege the brothers and their business committed tax fraud.

The NYPD’s Auto Crime Division revealed the scam by sending an undercover officer in with a damaged car last September, the complaint says.

The vehicle, a Honda Crosstour, sustained “controlled damages” that amounted to $2,693, including minor dents to the passenger side front bumper, the front rim, the front fender and the side front door, according to the complaint.

Argetim Dema told the undercover officer not to tell the insurance company that anyone was driving, but rather to report that the car was parked in front of a home and was sideswiped in the street, the complaint states.

“Don’t tell them the damages to the vehicle, don’t be specific,” he told the undercover officer, according to the complaint.


By Oct. 16, an insurance company paid $4,400 for the repair of the vehicle – “including damages to the whole left side that (were) not there before, and with damages as if another car sideswiped said vehicle,” the complaint states.

The auto shop allegedly ran a similar scheme on one of its customers in October 2011—the owner of a 2006 Nissan Titan came in for repairs after hitting a rock at the corner of Lois Street and Howard Avenue with the front of the vehicle.

Dema’s wound up collecting $11,000 in insurance money, at least $3,000 more than the actual repair costs, reporting extra damages to both the front and back of the truck, the complaint alleges.

The tax fraud charges came after a forensic accountant with District Attorney Daniel Donovan’s office reviewed the shop’s records and found that they hadn’t paid more than $50,000 in taxes between 2009 and 2012, the complaint alleges.

Body shops that run “enhanced damage” insurance schemes will often offer to pay a customer’s deductible in exchange for looking the other way when insurance claim includes extra damages, according to a source familiar with fraud investigations.

Too often, though, those customers end up losing out when they look to sell or trade in the vehicle, since those phantom damages end up reducing the car’s Kelley Blue Book value, the source said.

Talat Dema, of Lake Hopacong, N.J., and Argetim Dema, of Allen Place in Annadale, both face multiple felony charges, as does their business, which is being charged as a corporation.

The charges include second-degree grand larceny, third- and fourth-degree criminal tax fraud, and third- and fourth-degree insurance fraud.

Det. Ferdinand Muniz of the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division is credited with the arrest.

Both brothers were arraigned Wednesday in Stapleton Criminal Court and ordered released on their own recognizance until their next appearance Aug. 20.

The shop remained open and busy that afternoon. When asked about the charges, Argetim Dema said, “I think it was a mistake,” but declined to elaborate, saying he’d need to talk to his lawyer.