Today’s news:

Astoria broker ran insurance scam: DA

A Long Island woman who owns two insurance brokerage firms in Astoria was arraigned late November for allegedly scamming four insurance providers of approximately $600,000 in owed premiums from more than 400 policyholders, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

Julie Levin, 44, who owned Oscar Katz Agency Inc. and Levin & Associates Brokerage Inc., both of which are at 29-24 Hoyt Ave. South in Astoria, has been arraigned on four counts of grand larceny, four counts of criminal possession of stolen property, one count of scheming to defraud and 43 counts of issuing a bad check, the DA’s office said. She was released on $50,000 bail and ordered to return to court Jan. 7, the DA’s office said. If convicted, she could potentially face up to 15 years in prison, the DA’s office said.

“The defendant is accused of illegally pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance premium proceeds that she had received from clients who believed that they were making their payments in a timely fashion,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. “Such a blatant abuse of trust cannot go unpunished.”

In an investigation assisted by four insurance companies — Maya Assurance, American Transit Insurance Co., Hereford Insurance and Fiduciary Insurance Co. of America — the DA discovered that Levin allegedly pocketed $606,769.82 in premium payments from 406 individuals throughout the 2009 calendar year. The DA’s office said that to conceal the theft, Levin sent $121,750 in 43 checks to Maya and Hereford, but the checks were returned due to insufficient funds.

The state Insurance Department was also involved in this investigation, the DA’s office said.

“Protecting policyholders and ensuring the integrity of the insurance industry are key missions of the New York State Insurance Department,” Superintendent James Wrynn said. “We applaud District Attorney Brown for his office’s work in joining with the department to aggressively investigate this case.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone by 718-260-4564.

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