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Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher Announces Insurance Fraud Arrests

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- In a continuing crackdown on insurance fraud, Attorney General Mike Fisher today announced the recent arrests of 16 suspects charged with numerous scams to defraud insurance companies, including staged "slip and falls" and phoney auto and homeowner claims.

"Insurance fraud costs consumers as much as $100 billion a year nationwide," said Fisher. "Pennsylvanians pay as much as 25 cents of every insurance premium dollar for fraud. As the chief law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania, I'm committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting insurance fraud throughout the state."

In May, Fisher announced the arrests of 27 suspects charged with insurance fraud by his Insurance Fraud Section. In addition to the arrests announced today, he said his office is continuing to investigate insurance fraud.

Each of these arrests were made by agents of Fisher's Insurance Fraud Section and will be prosecuted by attorneys in the section. The cases were referred to Fisher's office by the insurance industry and by local police departments.

Since August 1995, Fisher said the Attorney General's Insurance Fraud Section has made 114 arrests resulting in $500,000 in restitution.

The Attorney General said among the suspects charged is a Bucks County man who allegedly staged a slip and fall in front of his landlord's home and a Delaware County women with carpal tunnel syndrome who defrauded her insurance out of more than $20,000 in medical benefits.

All of the defendants have been charged over the past four months, each suspect has been arrested and is awaiting court proceedings.

Charged are:

Joseph Glass, 29, of 149 Carrol Ave., Glenside, Montgomery County. The charges allege that Glass filed a fraudulent $50,000 bodily injury lawsuit against the borough of North Wales claiming that he was injured on Aug. 23, 1992, after falling into a sewer outlet at Third and Walnut Streets in North Wales. The investigation revealed that Glass was cited later that day by North Wales police for public drunkenness and a witness purports to have seen Glass purposely place his leg in the sewer outlet.

Mark J. Eckel, 37, and his wife, Linda M. Eckel, 34, both of 396 Merion Place, Newtown, Bucks County. The charges allege that in January 1996 the Eckels attempted to defraud their insurance out of $16,556 by submitting a fraudulent property damage claim resulting from flood damage. The Eckels later changed their story and said the damage was caused by a broken water pipe and that a plumber repaired the leak on Jan. 16, 1996. The investigation revealed that the Eckels didn't call the plumber until a week
after they filed their claim and that the plumber repaired a small drip not a leaking water pipe. The Eckels are each charged with two counts of insurance fraud and one count each of criminal attempt theft by deception and criminal conspiracy.


Stewart B. Simon, 47, and his wife, Fern Simon, 45, both of 960 Hedgerow Court, Blue Bell, Montgomery County. The charges allege that in July 1995 the Simons submitted a fraudulent homeowners's claim stating that the hardwood floors in their home sustained water damage. The Simons obtained a $3,900 estimate from a contractor to repair the damage but allegedly altered the contractor's estimate by $2,000 by submitting a $5,900 estimate with their claim. The Simons are each charged with two counts of insurance fraud and one count of criminal attempt theft by deception. Additionally, Stewart Simon is charged with one count of forgery.

Manuel Perez, 32, of 148 North Twelfth St., Allentown,Lehigh County. The charges allege that in December 1996 Perez, in an attempt to get a proof of financial responsibility insurance card for his 1989 Jaguar, provided the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation with fraudulent information stating that he had purchased a policy with State Farm Insurance. The investigation disclosed that Perez never purchased a policy with State Farm Insurance or with any other insurance company. He is charged with one count each of insurance fraud, unsworn falsification to authorities, false application for certificate of title or registration and of altered, forged or counterfeit documents and plates.

Michael Mitchko, 23, of 229 Bridge St., Jessup, and Maureen Quinn, 25, of 506 Second St., Peckville, Lackawanna County. The charges allege that Mitchko and Quinn reported to the police and their insurance company in July 1994 that a Ford Ranger pick-up truck they jointly owned was stolen from a Dickson City shopping center. The charges allege that the truck was not stolen, but that the defendants conspired together to defraud their insurance company out of the $5,966, which was the value of the truck. They are each charged with one count of insurance fraud, theft by deception, criminal conspiracy and false reports to law enforcement authorities.

Frederick Powell, 51, and his wife, Suzanne Powell, 52, both of 747 Hallowell Dr., Huntington Valley, Montgomery County. The charges allege that the Powells, whose Jeep Cherokee was stolen in August 1988, allegedly submitted a $7,835 fraudulent claim to their insurance company. They reported that numerous personal items were in the Jeep at the time it was stolen including: a video camera, golf clubs and a car phone. To support their claim, the Powells allegedly submitted photographs of the items to their insurance company. However, the charges allege that the photographs of the items were taken four-months after the Jeep was purportedly stolen. The Powells are each charged with two counts of insurance fraud and one count of criminal attempt theft by deception and criminal conspiracy.

William Jones, 28, of 1119 Radcliffe St., Bristol, Bucks County. The charges allege that in January 1996, after arguing with his landlord about a rent payment, Jones staged a "slip and fall" accident on the sidewalk of his landlord's home. Jones allegedly attempted to defraud his landlord's insurance company by filing a bogus $11,000 bodily injury claim. He is charged with one count each of insurance fraud and criminal attempt theft by deception.

George Alston, 31, of Altoona, Blair County. The charges allege that Alston defrauded his renter's insurance policy out of $1,000 in medical coverage by staging a "slip and fall" accident on the stairs of his apartment in October 1996.

Bruce Gaito Sr., 41, of 65 Woodland Ave., Washington, Washington County. The charges allege that Gaito submitted a fraudulent $9,980 claim to his insurance company stating that his 1988 Chevy truck was stolen. Gaito also submitted a claim stating that his wife's 1992 Plymouth van was stolen. The investigation revealed that the vehicles were not stolen but that Gaito asked a friend to store them so that Gaito could collect the insurance money. He is charged with three counts of insurance fraud and one count each of theft by deception and false reports to law enforcement authorities.

Anna Garber, 34, of 609 Glennwood Ave., Lansdowne, Delaware County. The charges allege that from November 1994 through May 1996 Garber fraudulently received $20,041 in medical and disability payments for treatment relating to injuries she suffered as the result of carpal tunnel syndrome. The investigation revealed that Garber submitted fraudulent letters from her doctor to substantiate her benefits. She is charged with one count each of insurance fraud and theft by deception.

John Sypien, 38, of Sarasota, Fla. and formerly of Souderton, Montgomery County, allegedly collected $10,656 in fraudulent workers' compensation benefits from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company from February 1995 through March 1996. The charges allege that Sypien submitted documents to Liberty Mutual that verified he was not receiving any wages or income other than workers compensation. The investigation disclosed that Sypien was working as a custodian in the Sarasota County School District since February 1995. He is charged with one count each of insurance fraud and theft by deception.

James Jones Jr., 32, of 1333 McFerran St., Philadelphia, allegedly obtained $24,321 in fraudulent workers' compensation benefits from the PMA Insurance Group between 1994 and 1996. Jones injured his knee in 1987 while working for a concrete company and began collecting workers compensation benefits. In 1994, Jones began working for a moving and storage company but continued to collect his workers compensation benefits. He is charged with one count each of insurance fraud and theft by deception.

Fisher said the Attorney General's Insurance Fraud Section is funded by the Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority with money provided through assessments on the state's insurance industry.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
 -0- 10/10/97


/EDITORS' ADVISORY: This release describes suspects charged in the following counties: Blair, Bucks, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Washington/

/CONTACT: Kevin Harley, Deputy Press Secretary of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, 717-787-5211, or home, 717-569-2771/

CO: Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General ST: Pennsylvania IN: INS SU:

BS -- PHF030 -- 2917 10/10/97 13:56 EDT http://www.prnewswire.com
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