Don't Have A Car Wreck--Philly Crooks Will Make You One

April 25, 2011

Prosecutors in Philadelphia announced that 11 individuals had been charged in an insurance fraud scheme that transpired over four years in Philadelphia.

In a twist on the usual crash scams, personnel at the body shop in question retrofitted a forklift with car bumpers, and crashed it with vehicles to enhance and create damage, thus boosting the value of the claims.

The digital version of the Philadelphia Inquirer estimated the value of the fraud as being in the millions of dollars, while the DA is said to have indicated that the tally is yet to be completed.

Among those charged are the shop’s owner and manager, a lawyer, a Philadelphia police officer and seven insurance appraisers. As a group, they face maximum sentences of $2.3 million in fines and 1250 years of incarceration.

On its website, the office of the district attorney of Philadelphia said that the referral came from State Farm Insurance Company in February of 2010. The undercover investigation utilized audio and video surveillance, a decoy car, and a pretext insurance policy. Two other insurance companies and the National Insurance Crime Bureau aided in the investigation.

The police officer’s connection was to allegedly serve as a “wreck chaser” and refer drivers involved in accidents to the body shop. For this the DA says that the officer was given a percentage of the ultimate insurance settlement. He is also alleged to have filed fraudulent claims for his own vehicles.

The attorney is alleged to have advised the body shop owner on the “fraudulent aspects of the business” and to have worked with the owner and certain employees of the shop to file fraudulent bodily injury claims.

The appraisers allegedly were inflating appraisals of the collision damage in exchange for cash payments from the owner of the body shop.

Seth Williams, Philadelphia’s District Attorney said, “This is not a victimless crime, all Philadelphia consumers are affected."     

[Philadelphia Inquirer & Philadelphia DA's Office]           

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