When one thinks of a district attorney from New York City, the scene goes to any one of a number of celebrated crime stories from the City That Never Sleeps: murder, mayhem, and madness, it seems, trump virtually everything else. For anyone who ever tried to gain the attention of prosecutors for an insurance fraud case, even the most salacious of stories could barely hold a candle to the screaming headlines of the New York Post or other tabloids blaring the most recent heinous act. In Queens County, though, Judge Richard Brown was no ordinary district attorney, and his attention to insurance fraud cases was just one way he set himself apart from his peers. And rate payers, insurers and the public are all the better for it.
Judge Brown, who liked to be addressed that way even after he entered the district attorney's office, died on May 4, 2019 after a remarkable twenty-eight year run in that post. He left behind a legacy of showing up at crime scenes at all hours of the day and night, starting a school--at the district attorney's office--for wayward youth, and for providing seemingly limitless attention and dedication to every insurance fraud case that crossed his desk.
The insurance fraud stories that came out of the office over the early 2000s could have spun around on broadsheets the way the movies would reveal screaming headlines: "Car Insurance Scam Nets 30 in Queens Sting Operation." "Multi-State Motorcycle Theft Ring Busted; 16 Charged with Stealing 81 Cycles." 43 Indicted in N.Y. Auto 'Fraud Factory.'" The list goes on... for a very long time. As he put it, insurance fraud was an issue in his crosshairs from the time he came into office in 1991 and it proved to be a constant focus throughout his long tenure.
While workers compensation and health insurance had their due, Judge Brown really enjoyed the auto insurance fraud cases. Cars are more important in Queens than in any other borough save Staten Island, and for years New York held the ignominious honor of having among the highest car insurance rates in the country. Whether from his days on the bench, or his time in Albany shaping public policy as a senior legislative or gubernatorial staffer, Judge Brown understood the simple yet critical correlation between auto insurance fraud and the hit on the wallets of the hard-working, largely blue collar constituency that he served.
Fraud rings, in particular, allowed Judge Brown to roll up his sleeves and dig into a crime that looked both...