Hall of Shame: Roof caves in on DJ’s stormy insurance conBy James Quiggle
December 22, 2011
Radio DJ Tanya Cruise sailed rough waters. She had two crooked politicians and a shady adjuster create storm damage to her home in a hapless insurance scheme that was discovered when one of her corrupt politicos was wiretapped for yet other corruption crimes.
Lori Sergiacomi was known as smooth-talking Tanya Cruise, the popular midday DJ for Lite Rock 105 in the Providence, R.I. area.
Groundwater flooded her basement after a big summer storm, but she didn’t have federal flood insurance.
Sergiacomi also wanted to make expensive improvements to her roof and pool, and figured the storm provided the perfect cover for an insurance scam to pay for her uninsured home improvements.
She was buddies with two shady local politicos who were glad to help out. John Zambarano, then a North Providence councilman, banged a big hole into her roof with a branch. He also messed up her home interior and pool to mimic insurable storm damage. Former town council president and home contractor Robert Ricci helped with the damage.
Sergiacomi also bribed an unlicensed insurance adjuster named Vincent DiPaolo $4,000 to grease the insurance scheme by doctoring the paperwork.
She almost got away with it. Her insurer forked over $40,000, but she’d chosen bad company in Zambarano. He was involved in a local pay-to play bribery scheme involving construction contracts. The feds had wiretapped him, and just Sergiacomi’s dumb luck, Zambarano bragged about the insurance con to the microphone.
Zambarano and a crony discussed how he damaged Sergiacomi’s home. “I just got to do on the roof later this afternoon and do what I got to do over there. I got a good-size branch...made a...you know, a hole in the thing and it went through the liner,” Zambarano said. “...Wait till you see Lori’s house. You’re gonna want me to be your demolition man all the time.”
Thusly alerted, her insurer checked out the weather patterns for the day Sergiacomi said the storm mangled her home: oops, fair weather in the 70s.
Sergiacomi and her cronies soon landed in court. She portrayed herself as a lonely single woman who was devoted to her job and charity work. She took a swipe at Zambarano, portraying him as the scheme’s architect and herself as a woman who had a hard time saying “no.”
Sergiacomi somehow escaped prison; she received four months in a halfway house and four months of home confinement. But she also lost her job and possibly her radio career. And she must face the community as an embarrassed public figure who’d gone seriously wrong.
Zambarano took a harder fall. He received nearly six years in federal prison for insurance fraud and corruption. Adjuster DiPaolo received six months in a halfway house and six months of home confinement.
"Bottom line, you sold your soul for $4,000 in this case," the judge told DiPaolo. Ricci received two years of probation. He also lost a well-paying state job, and will have a permanent felony conviction on his record when he applies for his next job.
Sergiacomi apologized to the court. The last few months were a “personal hell” and the “biggest mistake of my life,” she said.
“I take full responsibility for my actions. I am truly, so sorry,” she told the judge at her sentencing.
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