On Wednesday, February 18, 2015, the New York Attorney General’s office executed a search warrant at the offices of GEB HiRise Engineering in Uniondale, New York in a criminal probe over allegations of fraudulently changed engineering reports for Superstorm Sandy flood claims.
If you have been watching the news lately, you’ve probably seen a story or two about fraudulently changed engineering reports in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Alternatively if you’ve been following this blog, you’ve undoubtedly seen several posts concerning this issue—Chip Merlin’s post: Altered Engineering Reports Must Be Disclosed – Sandy Flood Judge Requires Transparency, or Robert Trautmann’s post: New Jersey Senator Menendez Calls for Investigation into Manipulated Expert Reports, or my previous post: New Jersey Federal Courts Expect Flood Carriers to Turn Over All Draft Engineering Reports on Superstorm Sandy Claims.
While a different engineering firm has been at the center of the controversy, it is now wholly apparent that the actions of the engineers hired by the Write Your Own (“WYO”) flood carriers have been widespread and pervasive and include many engineers from many engineering firms. Regarding the raid at HiRise, reports have stated:1
Much of the evidence in the HiRise cases has revolved around a small amount of work done for the firm by one Brooklyn engineer, Harold Weinberg.
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Nearly all of Weinberg’s reports were changed after he turned them in. In some cases, reports that were missing key information were rewritten with much more authoritative findings, or reorganized in a way that made them easier to read. In other cases, his conclusions were discarded entirely.
In one report, dated Jan. 16, 2013, Weinberg wrote the foundation walls of a small home in Brooklyn’s Gerritsen Beach section had been “damaged extensively” by the storm surge. He included photographs of crumbling masonry blocks in the crawl space. But the final version turned in by HiRise said “no structural damage” was caused by the storm. It said the foundation blocks had deteriorated over time.
In several reports, Weinberg’s signature appears to have been cut from the original draft and clumsily pasted into the final version. Weinberg has submitted an affidavit in the civil cases saying that his signature was forged.
From what we’ve seen so far, this seems to be the M.O. of these engineering firms. They take a report written by the engineer who went out to inspect the property and change it to deny coverage. It is our hope that the individuals responsible for changing the reports and denying coverage—which should have been rightfully afforded to paying customers of the WYO carriers and the National Flood Insurance Program—be brought to justice. We’ll be interested to see what this probe shakes out and we’ll keep you updated as this and other related stories progress.
In the meantime, and as always, I’ll leave you with a (mildly) related tune, here’s New Jersey’s own Frank Sinatra, with New York, New York:
1 “LI Engineering Firm Raided Amid Attorney General Probe Into Sandy Insurance Payouts” CBS New York, February 18, 2015 (last viewed on Feb. 18, 2015, at: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/02/18/li-engineering-firm-raided-amid-attorney-general-probe-into-sandy-insurance-payouts/