There Is a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Go About Repairing Storm Damage.
Serious trouble awaits contractors who take the dishonest route.
A 32-year-old Red Hill, PA man was arrested in Montgomery County by special agents of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. Charged with Insurance Fraud, it was alleged that as a representative of a New Jersey-based contracting company, the man distributed flyers to Pennsylvania homeowners after storms occurred, promising new siding at no cost through insurance claims and that prior to the arrival of adjusters from the homeowners’ insurance companies the man created additional damage to the homes.
Lehigh County law enforcement officials, working with Pennsylvania Attorney General special agents and assisted by NICB special agents and New Jersey law enforcement officers, arrested two men, both age 34, of Sellersville, PA and Quakertown, PA on charges of Insurance Fraud and Corrupt Organizations.
It was alleged that the pair operated a criminal scheme to defraud insurers through fraudulent hail damage claims. They left flyers at area homes promising homeowners free inspections for storm damage as well as new roofs and siding at no cost through insurance claims. Homeowners were also told that by placing the contractor’s sign in their yards after work was done, their policy deductibles would be returned to them.
Before adjusters from insurance companies arrived to inspect the homes, the pair and several inspectors employed by their contracting firms would create damage to the roofs and siding of homes to make it appear that they had been damaged by hail. Unsuspecting property insurers paid out millions of dollars. These homeowners also found that mechanics’ liens had been placed on their homes as contractors had not paid roofing and siding suppliers.
Detectives of the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office charged a 33-year-old Media, PA contractor with Attempted Insurance Fraud and Theft by Deception. A representative from the contractor’s firm had called, unannounced, upon a Lansdowne, PA couple after a hailstorm passed through their neighborhood. Informed that their home had been damaged by hail, the couple reported a claim to their home’s insurer and hired the contractor’s firm to make repairs.
The couple received several thousand dollars from their home’s insurer to start repairs. Repairs were not started quickly. As repairs were made, the couple and the contractor disagreed about the quality of work. The home was reportedly further damaged by water leakage and mold. It was alleged that after the couple refused to pay the contractor the remaining money due without full repairs being made, the contractor gave the couple’s insurer a false certification that work had been completed in an attempt to obtain the additional thousands of dollars due. The insurer’s final claim payment check was sent to the couple but was not released to the contractor by the couple as needed repairs were not completed.
There Are Also Consequences for Homeowners Who Try to Exploit Storms as a Payday Opportunity
A 52-year-old North Huntingdon, PA woman was arrested in Westmoreland County by Attorney General Insurance Fraud special agents and charged with filing a fraudulent claim on her homeowner’s insurance. Reporting to her insurance company that her furnace was damaged by a power failure during a wind and hail storm, the woman altered a repair order form, changing the cost of a replacement circuit board for her furnace from $150 to $750. The alteration was caught by her insurance company’s claim representatives.
A 38-year-old Titusville, PA woman was arrested in Crawford County by special agents of the Office of the Attorney General. According to the Criminal Complaint, the defendant added collision and comprehensive coverage to her existing automobile policy following a hailstorm. After the hail event had already occurred, she filed a claim for damages caused to her vehicle by the hailstorm by allegedly misrepresenting the date of the storm’s occurrence in an attempt to bring it within the newly obtained coverage period. She was charged with Insurance Fraud and Criminal Attempt/Theft.
Special agents of the Office of the Attorney General filed a Criminal Complaint in Fulton County charging a 38-year-old Needmore, PA man with Insurance Fraud and Criminal Attempt/Theft by Deception. It was alleged that after the defendant’s car was damaged by hail, he purchased auto insurance and then filed a hail damage claim, misrepresenting that the damage happened after his purchase of insurance. The defendant was granted Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) with 12 months of probation and was ordered to pay all court costs.
Dishonest Contractors Often Try to Capitalize on Unfortunate Situations
One person’s tragic situation is often the fraudulent organization’s opportunity. Here’s a case of a fire-scene chaser’s bad judgment:
On March 16, 2018, detectives of the Allegheny County Police Department arrested a Pittsburgh man and charged him with multiple counts of Insurance Fraud, Conspiracy, Theft by Deception and Receiving Stolen Property. According to the criminal complaint, he had started a restoration company in Pittsburgh in late 2016. The complaint states that the man would respond to scenes of structure fires just after the fires were reported over emergency radio. Reportedly, the man advised homeowners to do business with a specific adjuster so that insurance companies would deal with the company directly instead of with the homeowners.
The restoration company owner reportedly promised homeowners that he would deal with fire, smoke and water damage and that the homeowners would get money back from their insurance claims. According to the complaint, it had been alleged that the business owner did not complete work he was contracted to do, that he overcharged homeowners and their respective insurance companies for shoddy work and that he billed insurance companies for services he never performed.
On February 28, 2022, the Pittsburgh contractor pled guilty to Insurance Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices and was sentenced to four years, eight months confinement and two years’ probation. He was also ordered to pay court costs of $669.20.