17 indicted in scheme to bilk insurers via phony car accidents

Published: 2010-03-03 21:50:31
Author: MICHAEL HINKELMAN | Philadelphia Daily News | February 20, 2010

Federal authorities yesterday announced the indictment of 17 people - including a chiropractor and an attorney - on mail-fraud charges in connection with a scheme to bilk insurance companies by staging fake auto accidents.

The indictment represents the latest chapter in an ongoing investigation by the offices of the U.S. attorney and the Philadelphia district attorney into insurance fraud. The investigation has resulted in 56 guilty pleas in state court and eight guilty pleas or convictions in federal court, U.S. Attorney Michael Levy said.

Authorities said the defendants charged yesterday, most of whom are from Philadelphia, filed false accident reports so they could get free medical care and attempt to receive civil-settlement payments.

Stephen Rios, 45, a Northeast Philadelphia physician, is charged with 23 counts of mail fraud for his role in allegedly falsifying patient treatment records and billing insurers for fictitious services to get more money for himself and obtain higher settlements for alleged accident "victims."

Glori Kasner, 36, a lawyer from Huntingdon Valley, was charged with two counts of mail fraud, alleging that she helped obtain financial settlements for people who hadn't been in accidents.

The accident "victims" allegedly filed claims after staging phony accidents or pretending that accidents happened.

The feds also alleged that some defendants obtained false police reports from a then-Philadelphia police officer (charged in a related scheme in 2007), recruited drivers and passengers for the sham accidents, referred alleged accident "victims" to a chiropractor and attorneys, and demanded kickbacks from settlements.

The defendants allegedly provided a cover story for "victims" to tell the chiropractor, attorney and insurer.

Insurers lost $167,000 in connection with the scam, the indictment said. Settlements ranged from $2,000 to $10,000.

Such insurance-fraud scams come to fruition because of a "cult of personality on the street," said FBI agent Brian Pacchioli. "The tow-truck drivers and wreck-chasers know through the body shops what chiropractors, cops and lawyers would be open to the scheme," he said.

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