Elizabeth Hur reports
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — SEPTA officials say the chance of hitting it rich by faking an injury on a bus, subway or trolley is rapidly getting harder as more and more surveillance cameras are covering the system.
Officials released surveillance video Thursday that they say shows half a dozen riders faking injuries in order to file monetary claims with the transit agency.
During one incident, video shows Ronald Moore running across the street in front of a bus that had just been lightly sideswiped by a taxi. After the bus driver exits the bus to deal with the cabbie, Moore boards, checks a rear window to make sure the driver is not paying attention, then grabs his back and lays down across a row of seats to fake his injury. He does all this even though he was not on the bus at the time of the accident.
In another incident Rita Hynson is seen walking up and down the aisle of a bus after it was rear-ended. Officials say she overhears the driver talking about the accident and then returns to her seat where she slumps over and pretends to be injured. But it doesn’t end there.
“She pops right back up to tell the people around her there was an accident,” said Frank Cornely, SEPTA’s Director of Claims. “What compounds this one is her six-year-old daughter is in the back of the bus as well. She actually persuades her to lay down and feign injury.”
SEPTA is releasing the video with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to spread the word that they are cracking down on fraudulent claims. So far, SEPTA has installed cameras on all of its subway cars and about half of its buses. By 2013, however, agency officials say all of its vehicles, with the exception of older regional rail cars, will be equipped with surveillance cameras.
That means fraud cases that were tough to prove just a few years ago are now much easier to get thrown out.
“A picture is truly worth a thousand words in these cases,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “These cameras have been extremely beneficial to our office to prosecute crimes.”
Filing a false claim is considered insurance fraud in Pennsylvania. Officials say it could come with a jail sentence, but judging by examples provided by SEPTA, it seems to most often lead to probation, restitution and fines.
As for the above cases, Moore received two years’ probation and was fined $1,000. Hynson is facing charges of two counts of insurance fraud, two counts of attempted theft by deception, and one count of creating a false alarm.
SEPTA pays about $40 million per year in accident claims and officials say that number has risen 10 percent in two years, perhaps because of the difficult economy.
Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3