Staten Island principal busted for role in auto insurance scam
Posted by 5Boroughs Insurance Agency on
A Staten Island principal has been arrested and charged with felony insurance fraud for registering her luxury cars at the Pennsylvania home of a city vendor, a scheme first exposed by The Post.
Oneatha Swinton, the interim acting principal of Port Richmond HS, was charged with four counts of insurance fraud, theft by deception and criminal conspiracy by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.
In addition, Tanya John, a former city principal, was charged with insurance fraud and conspiracy for allegedly helping Swinton get cheaper car insurance, the office announced.
Since the Post reported the alleged scheme last November, Port Richmond parents, staffers and students have complained about her management. On Friday, a group of school leaders sent a letter to Chancellor Richard Carranza demanding her “immediate removal.”
Swinton, 39, lives and works on Staten Island, but in 2014 obtained a Pennsylvania driver’s license and registered a Lexus SUV, later replaced with a newer model Lexus, using John’s East Stroudsburg, PA, address, the criminal complaint states.
The complaint says Swinton saved about $3,000 in car insurance premiums, because rates are much steeper in NYC than in rural East Stroudsburg. In addition, she filed two claims for damages in New York, costing the insurer $2, 247.
John, 44, was CEO of Feetz LLC, which was hired by Swinton to tutor students and run “character development” programs. Feetz has collected at least $1.3 million from DOE schools since 2012.
“These two defendants concocted a plan to fraudulently obtain lower insurance rates,” Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro said in a press release. “When people commit insurance fraud, it causes premiums to rise for the folks who follow the rules. ”
Swinton and John turned themselves in and appeared in Monroe County court on Thursday. Both were released on $5,000 bail, pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug. 15.
Swinton, confronted by a Post reporter at the school Friday, refused to comment. John, reached by phone, also refused to comment.
Investigators with the Pennsylvania AG found that John put her energy bill in Swinton’s name for three months, from April to June 2014, so Swinton could show it as proof of residency to obtain a driver’s license.
Swinton then bought car insurance using her fraudulent Pennsylvania license and registration, the AG says. She later filed two claims for losses in New York City, with repairs done in Brooklyn.
In the first claim, on Sept. 13, 2016, Swinton reported her car was struck in a hit-and-run fender-bender while it was parked near her Staten Island home. In the second claim, on Sept. 26, 2016, Swinton reported that her car was vandalized in Brooklyn –“keyed” on the driver’s side and a mirror damaged.
When Swinton learned of the AG investigation in December 2017, officials said, she tried to cover her tracks by getting a New York driver’s license that listed her own Staten Island address, and changed the registration of her Lexus to New York State.
Tanya John’s Feetz worked for the Secondary School for Law in Brooklyn, where Swinton was formerly principal. After joining Port Richmond last year, Swinton planned to hire Feetz again, insiders said.
Feetz’s website boasts n endorsement by Swinton, saying “Teamwork really does make the Dreamwork!”
The DOE has refused to appoint other qualified candidates as the permanent principal while Swinton is still under scrutiny by the city Department of Investigation. She will remain interim principal “while we review the charges,” a DOE spokesman said.