In 1985, Brian Calen claimed he was blinded in the right eye in a cruise ship accident. Seven years later, he said a ship’s telescope blinded him again. Then, he said, he was blinded on two more trips — by a champagne bottle and a flying disc.
All in the same eye.
Calen’s unlucky streak — which allowed him to collect more than $1 million in travelers’ insurance money — finally caught up with him Wednesday, when he was charged with insurance fraud and grand larceny.
“How does a guy get blinded again and again?” District Attorney Jeanine Pirro asked.
Now authorities are trying to piece together how Calen was able to dupe insurance companies for so long without getting caught.
Pirro spokeswoman Anne Marie Corbalis said Calen, 48, took out insurance policies that covered losses while traveling on a ship and did not require a medical examination. The policies were sometimes triggered by charging the trip on a credit card, she said.
In 1992, Calen collected $75,000 after claiming the filter on a cruise ship telescope fell off, resulting in solar burn.
Five years later, he collected $1 million after claiming he was blinded by an exploding champagne bottle on another cruise. Pirro said Calen had deliberately broken a bottle and injured himself with the shards.
In 2002, Calen filed a claim for $500,000, alleging he was blinded by a flying disc on a riverboat cruise with a Civil War theme. Pirro said an alert insurance investigator discovered his prior claims and notified authorities.
Corbalis said prosecutors have not determined if Calen attempted to file an insurance claim following the 1985 accident. Medical records showed that he suffered retinal damage, but the cause was unknown.
A call to Calen’s attorney, Peter Goodrich, was not immediately returned. If convicted, Calen could get five to 15 years in prison.