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Man avoids jail time in insurance fraud case

LOCKPORT – Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas placed a Lockport man on five years’ probation Thursday and ordered him to repay $14,969 to State Farm Insurance in connection with an effort to keep disability checks coming in the wake of an auto accident.

Matthew J. Luke, 27, of Chapel Street, could have been sent to prison for as long as four years in the wake of his admission to fourth-degree insurance fraud.

Luke kept copying and slightly altering a doctor’s note attesting to his injury to fool State Farm into continuing to pay while he was actually recovered and working between May 2010 and September 2011. Luke’s girlfriend turned him in, defense attorney Christopher A. Privateer said.

A hearing will be held on whether the county Probation Department is entitled to add a 10 percent surcharge to handle Luke’s restitution payments. That is standard, but Privateer said because of the large amount, the county is entitled to only 5 percent under the law, because it won’t cost the county anywhere near $1,496 to process the payments.