Reporting Robin Culverwell
By Robin Culverwell, Jenn Bernstein
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- Nine people have turned themselves in to face theft and fraud charges stemming from a minor bus accident last spring after audio and video surveillance tape told a different tale than what was claimed.
Last May, a Philadelphia Trolley Works vehicle was headed to the Sugarhouse Casino, when a side mirror of the trolley clipped a SEPTA bus mirror. This happened at 7th & Market.
Twenty-six passengers were on the bus and assistant district attorney Irina Ehrlich says nine people claimed injury.
Story continues after photos.
In the video you can see the Trolley graze the side mirror of a SEPTA bus. Barely anyone moves, but that doesn’t stop certain passengers from saying things like, “I hit my leg! My ribs hurt!”
Passengers even pass around paper to get each other’s information.
“You can see that everybody’s laughing, talking about it and excited about getting some money from this incident,” explains Ehrlich.
Ehrlich says the nine hired lawyers and even saw doctors.
“Some went 10 times, 20 times, over 20 times to seek treatment for their pain and suffering.”
Philadelphia Trolley Work’s vice president of operations Michael Kates was glad the company had surveillance video when they were contacted by lawyers of the 9 passengers who said they experienced serious, even “traumatic bodily injuries,” from this minor accident.
“It’s ridiculous and nobody who sees that video would ever think that there could have possibly been an injury involved,” says Kates.
The company installed surveillance cameras two years ago after it was sick of paying out fraudulent claims.
“It can’t be done anymore,” said Kates, “it used to be where companies would write a check for $5,000 for folks to go away, now we’d rather spend $20,000 to get folks convicted.”
This time around the company turned everything over to the District Attorney’s office and now all nine passengers are facing serious felony charges of insurance fraud and attempted theft by deception.
“People who are thinking, contemplating filing fake claims, they should think twice because most buses, most private companies, most businesses now have equipment,” Ehrlich says.