Chungs plead before trial

Friday June 22, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Restaurateur Jae Chung, who was facing criminal charges related to what prosecutors said was a false insurance claim, had one count of insurance fraud dismissed and two other charges continued without a finding of guilt at a plea hearing Thursday in Central Berkshire District Court. Chung’s wife, Suzanne, who faced the same charges, had one charge dismissed and was given pretrial probation on the others.

The Chungs were charged with single counts of insurance fraud, filing a false police report and attempting to commit larceny over $250.

The charges stem from an insurance claim for $23,492 the couple filed with the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. in July 2009 stating that appliances -- a Sub Zero brand refrigerator, a Bosch washer and dryer and a Miele dishwasher, among other items -- had been stolen from a commercial building they then-owned at 137 North St. Investigators for the In surance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts (IFB) said many of the items were actually sold with the couple’s Framingham home in September 2008.

A police report was also filed in the case.

A report filed in the case by Insurance Fraud Bureau Investigator Ted H. Weimer stated that the Chungs’ stories didn’t match up and that Jae Chung later told them he may not have been "precisely accurate, but was close" regarding the items that had allegedly been stolen.

The case was set to go to trial Thursday in the Jury of Six session of Central District Court, but the couple pleaded out instead.

Jae Chung, 48, appeared with attorney Anthony Gianacopoulos and admitted to facts sufficient for a finding of guilt. Chung had a single count of insurance fraud dismissed and a continuation without a finding of guilt for five months on the other charges. He also paid $3,500 in restitution.

In a continuation without a finding, a defendant must admit there could be sufficient facts to find the defendant guilty after a jury trial. If the defendant stays out of trouble for a certain period of time -- in Jae Chung’s case, five months -- the case is dismissed without the defendant having a conviction on his record.

In the case of Suzanne Chung, 50, who appeared with attorney William A. Rota and was given pretrial probation for five months, their is no admission of guilt and the case is dismissed after the designated time.

"Ultimately, all these charges will be dismissed," Gianacopoulos told The Eagle on Thursday.

The attorney said the disposition of the Chungs’ cases "was a reasoned and measured approach" to a resolution "short of a full-blown trial." The District Attorney’s Office agreement to the eventual dismissal of all charges allows the Chungs to maintain their innocence.

"With this resolution, the Chungs agreed to forgo their right to a jury trial. It was simply an offer made by the Commonwealth that could not be passed over and the only resolution of the case that guaranteed that the Chungs would not be wrongly convicted."

Gianacopoulos said al though juries are "usually keen enough to evaluate the evidence" and "reach just and accurate verdicts," there is always "a calculated risk that a jury may come to the wrong decision."

Rota has called the IFB "a private entity created and controlled by the insurance industry" and not a law enforcement agency.

According to the IFB, the agency was created by a state law that allows it to conduct criminal investigations. It is a private entity funded by the insurance industry. IFB investigators don’t have the power to arrest individuals.

A report by the IFB showed that of 3,583 claims brought to the agency in 2011, there were 42 convictions of people for insurance fraud or related crimes.

The Chungs’ personal property theft claim was denied by Chubb in June 2010.

According to court records, Chubb spent just over $34,959 to investigate the $23,492 claim.


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