Anthony G. Attrino | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
updated November 12, 2016 at 9:33 AM
ALPINE, NJ – New Jersey officials are suing a local rabbi, claiming he violated the state's anti-fraud act by falsely reporting his luggage was stolen from an airport terminal on 23 separate occasions to collect insurance money.
Rabbi Barry Kallenberg, 64, flew to Miami International Airport nearly two dozen times from 2010 to 2012, each time "falsely reporting to his airline that his luggage had not arrived," according to a lawsuit filed in September by N.J. Deputy Attorney General Kevin J. McGowan.
Florida court records show Kallenberg was convicted in March 2014 of making false insurance claims. The lawsuit, filed in Bergen County Superior Court, states Kallenberg was convicted on all 23 counts and sentenced to probation in Florida.
"They're suing me?" Kallenberg asked Thursday when contacted by phone. He declined to comment further.
Kallenberg, who authorities say lives in Alpine, NJ and Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., does not have a congregation. Instead, "I do mostly weddings, funerals and unveilings," he told a judge after his arrest.
According to court papers, Kallenberg's insurance policies with American Express and Allianz allowed him to collect $500 per claim for lost or delayed luggage.
Each claim was investigated by the Miami-Dade Police Department.
"Police surveillance uncovered that on several occasions Kallenberg retrieved his luggage from the baggage carousel, exited the terminal with his luggage, and returned a short time later to report that same luggage had not arrived," the suit states.
On a historic election night that left a bitter taste in the mouth of many liberals across the nation, Democrats in Bergen County were celebrating.
The investigation also revealed that after reporting his luggage missing, Kallenberg purchased merchandise up to and exceeding $500, returned the items for a full refund "and still submitted the receipts to American Express and Allianz for reimbursement," the lawsuit states.
"Kallenberg was paid over $35,000 from American Express and Allianz as a result of his insurance fraud scheme," according to the suit.
The suit alleges Kallenberg violated the New Jersey Insurance Fraud Act, which was enacted to "confront aggressively the problem of insurance fraud in New Jersey."
Under state law, Richard J. Badolato, the commissioner of the N.J. Department of Banking and Insurance, is authorized to sue people who violate the fraud act.
Kallenberg may be subject to a civil penalty of $5,000 for the first offense, $10,000 for the second offense and $15,000 for each subsequent offense, the suit states.
The lawsuit also demands a $1,000 surcharge, restitution to the insurance companies, interest and any other relief the court deems just.