By Chelsea Karnash and Oren Liebermann
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Eight people are charged with faking injuries on a SEPTA bus back in 2009.
In April 2012, SEPTA contacted the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office after receiving what were reportedly multiple fraudulent personal injury claims. Detectives began an investigation into the 2009 incident, which occurred on the SEPTA Route 21 bus on Dec. 23, 2009, when the bus stopped at 15th and Walnut Streets. A Loomis armored car clipped the left mirror of the SEPTA bus.
According to the DA, “There was no damage to the Loomis vehicle and the SEPTA bus only received a scratch as a result of the incident.”
At the time, no passengers in either vehicle were reported injured. A video surveillance system on the bus had recorded the entire incident from multiple vantage points.
Despite the lack of evidence, all of the defendants on the claim had retained a single attorney who had filed bodily injury claims on their behalf. The report said that the defendants were all treated at Center City Medical Center for injuries such as back and neck pain following the incident. The value of their combined medical bills was said to be about $80,000.
“Even when there is a collision – a pretty good collision – people are not disturbed that much. So even when there’s hardly a collision, there’s just no way they could be hurt,” said Frank Conerly, Director of SEPTA’s Claims Department.
Of the eight defendants, only two — Lorraine Huff and Malik Spivey – were actually aboard the bus at the time of the 2009 incident. Another defendant, Eric Lovett, can be seen on video outside the bus requesting a “witness card” from the driver. Lovett then allegedly enlisted the other five defendants, who he found on the street or in his neighborhood around the time of the incident, and convinced them to file the claims. Surveillance video also confirmed that the two defendants who were on the bus were not injured as they’d claimed.
Conerly says roughly 5,000 claims are filed against SEPTA every year. Of those, more than a hundred are turned over to police as suspected fraud. Claims cost SEPTA roughly $40 million dollars a year.
But Conerly says there were about 600 fewer claims filed last year, an indication that fewer questionable claims are being filed.
Forty eight-year-old Kitt Smith of the 1500 block of S. Stillman Street, 56-year-old Avis Jackson of 1200 block of S. 31st Street, 21-year-old Malik Spivey of 900 block of W. Champlost Ave, 46-year-old Eric Lovett of 2200 block of N. 17th Street and 36-year-old Stephanie Williams of 2200 block of N. 17th Street were all arrested and charged with Criminal Conspiracy, Attempted Theft by Deception and Insurance Fraud. Forty five-year-old Lorraine Huff of 3300 block of B. Street, 46-year-old Faith Rowley of 1200 block of S. 31st Street, 55-year old Arthur Whaley of 1300 block of Wells Street are also facing additional charges of Perjury and Unsworn Falsification for the incident that happened in December 2009 on the SEPTA Route 21 bus.
All eight defendants are scheduled to appear in court on October 15, 2012.