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Local News

May 15, 2014

Agent's trial begins in Otsego Chamber fraud case

A criminal trial is underway in Otsego County Court, with Norman J. Michaels Jr. of Katonah facing charges arising from the probe into the same alleged insurance scheme that toppled Robert “Rob” Robinson from his post as head of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce.

Michaels, 62, is being prosecuted by Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl on charges of first-degree scheming to defraud and second- and third-degree grand larceny.

An insurance agent in Westchester County, Michaels allegedly enrolled more than 400 downstate residents in an MVP Health Care insurance program offered by the Otsego Chamber.

State officials said last year that Michaels took $62,000 in commissions in a scheme that victimized MVP, a firm based in Schenectady.

The policies were enticing to people in the New York City suburbs, officials said, because they were less expensive than what was being offered in their local area.

MVP became aware of the alleged fraud after noticing a rapid increase in enrollments from the Otsego Chamber, officials said.

Michaels is being represented by veteran Albany criminal defense lawyer Terence Kindlon in a trial before Otsego County Judge John Lambert in the county courthouse in Cooperstown.

Robinson, an Oneonta resident, is also facing charges of insurance fraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records from the same investigation. His trial has been postponed because of medical issues, officials have said.

After 17 years with the Chamber, Robinson was removed from his $68,403-a-year job by the Chamber’s board of directors in November 2011 when the charges were brought against him by the state Department of Financial Services. 

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