By Brad Segall and Walt Hunter

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LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) — A public insurance adjuster who operated in Montgomery County is under arrest today, accused of stealing from clients who hired him to facilitate claims they made with their insurance companies.

Prosecutors say Marshall Perlman, who owns Claimstar Inc., in Lower Merion, signed contracts to assist homeowners and businesses in resolving their insurance claims, including several who had damage from Hurricane Sandy.

But investigators say the 70-year-old center city Philadelphia man instead kept more than $700,000 in claims for himself.

Pastor Gregory Johnson says his congregation, at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in West Philadelphia, lost more than $33,000 and now is struggling to find a way to fund repairs for the still leaking church.

“For us as a church it hurts us tremendously,” he said.

Montgomery County DA Risa Ferman says nearly a dozen of the claimants were expecting money to help them recover from the October 2012 superstorm.

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“In these cases the individuals were looking for their insurance companies to help make them whole, and the companies did in fact do that, but this man stood in the way and stole from them — it really is a tragedy,” Ferman said today.

During the time period he allegedly stole the money, prosecutors say, Perlman bought a condominium, did extensive renovations, and went on a luxury vacation.

An arrest warrant claims between 2011 and 2013 Perlman and his wife took a trip to Italy, and purchased a $500,000 beachfront condominium in Atlantic City. Perlman, according to the warrant, also “bragging about an additional $250,000 in renovations to the condominium.”

Ferman says Perlman in some cases forged his clients’ signatures so he could deposit their settlement checks.

Court records show Perlman pled guilty following an arrest in 2012 for stealing $400,000 from another of his clients. The District Attorney says she will seek jail time for Perlman as well as financial restitution for victims.

Following arraignment, Perlman was initially held in Montgomery County Prison in lieu of $175,000 bail.

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