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April 4, 2013

Chamber fraud case produces second arrest

Charges filed in 2011 against Rob Robinson in alleged scheme

The ongoing investigation that resulted in charges being filed against the then-president of the Otsego County Chamber in 2011 led to the arrest of a Westchester County man Tuesday, according to a media release from the state Department of Financial Services.

Norman J. Michaels Jr., 61, of Katonah, was arrested on second-degree grand larceny charges for allegedly taking $62,000 in commissions from the enrollment of more than 400 people in a phony category of insurance, according to a spokesman for the state agency. Michaels was released on his own recognizance.

Michaels is accused of  conspiring with Robert “Rob” Robinson, who allegedly created a phony Chamber membership category that made the scheme possible, according to the release. Robinson was fired from his position soon after his arrest.

A source close to the investigation said Michaels came up with the original idea for the scheme.

There is no allegation that Robinson personally benefited from the scheme, the source said. However, it defrauded people who bought the insurance. The chamber allegedly benefited from the sale of policies and membership fees, the source said.

Robinson, 58 at the time of his arrest, was charged with second-degree insurance fraud, two counts of second-degree grand larceny, first-degree falsifying business records and first-degree scheme to defraud. He was also released on his own recognizance.

Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl is prosecuting both cases. He said Wednesday a final offer to resolve the Robinson case was sent to his attorney, James Hartmann of Delhi. Hartmann had no comment when contacted Wednesday.

Muehl said he could not disclose what the offer was at this stage in the procedure. If he does not get a response, Muehl could present the case to a grand jury in May.

No new evidence has been developed that led to the new arrest, he said. Instead, when insurance investigators looked over the evidence, they decided there was enough to file the new charge.

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