Today’s news:

Laurelton man’s scam bilked $16K: DA

A Laurelton man, who allegedly made a false insurance claim of being struck by a bus, was charged last week with swindling taxpayers out of thousands of dollars, the Queens district attorney said.

Paul Hightower, 37, of 139−06 232nd St., was arraigned March 10 at Queens Criminal Court on several charges, including grand larceny and insurance fraud, for his alleged scheme from which he reaped more than $16,000, according to DA Richard Brown. Hightower sued the New York City Transit Authority in 2006 after he claimed he was hit by a bus and lied about the earnings he made at his job at a Rosedale mortgage company, the DA said in a statement.

“Claims like those allegedly filed in this case take money out of the pockets of all New Yorkers,” Brown said in a statement.

Hightower, expected to return to court next Tuesday, claimed he was struck on Sept. 11, 2006, at the intersection of Baisley Avenue and Bedell Boulevard in Jamaica, according to Brown. He filed a no−fault insurance claim for lost wages with the Transit Authority and testified in Queens Civil Court that his earnings were approximately $5,000 a month, the DA said.

He also testified in civil court that he earned $4,000 in July 2006 and $5,000 in August 2006, Brown said. A New York motor vehicle no−fault insurance employer’s wage verification request, submitted to the Transit Authority, allegedly indicated Hightower earned $3,000 a month at the mortgage company, according to the DA.

A Queens Civil Court judge declared a mistrial and referred the case to Brown’s office for possible prosecution for fraud. The DA’s detective’s squad spoke to the president of Discount Home Mortgage and learned that Hightower never signed a wage verification form and was earning $1,100 a month in July and August 2006, Brown said.

But that was not the end of Hightower’s criminal allegations, according to the DA. Hightower’s fingerprints were processed for a Pennsylvania warrant, indicating he was charged in 2005 with sexually assaulting a 14−year−old girl, Brown said.

“While allegedly stealing from this agency is bad enough, it turns out that a warrant had been issued for the defendant who is wanted for the alleged rape of a minor in Pennsylvania,” the DA said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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