The Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority (IFPA) and the Pennsylvania Chapters of the International Association of Special Investigation Units (IASIU) recognized the efforts of 13 individuals with annual Fraud Fighter Awards for their roles in the investigation and prosecution of insurance fraud cases across Pennsylvania.
Nearly 500 professionals attended the two-day event, held in April at Kalahari Resorts in Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania. Awards were presented by IFPA executive director Tom Donahue for individual and teamwork in cracking four cases.
Detective Robert DiFrancesco of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and retired Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael Romano received Fraud Fighter awards for their investigation of a crime ring that staged car accidents – a scheme that had netted over $125,000 from insurance companies. The ringleaders provided the money for their friends to buy salvage vehicles, get title and purchase insurance. The ringleaders would then take the salvage car and the car they wanted to total to a location in Philadelphia and crash one into the other. An Upper Darby body shop provided kickbacks for cars brought in and created fake tow bills. In total, DiFrancesco and Romano uncovered 10 staged accidents, with 14 individuals arrested and charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.
A team of eight professionals from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office – Special Agent Eric Norman, Deputy Attorney General Kristyne Sharpe, former Deputy Attorney General Matthew Connelly, Investigative Analyst Stephanie Wable, Investigative Analyst Heather VanDeMark, Investigative Analyst Cassandra Gillies, Senior Special Agent Doug Hilyard, and Senior Deputy Attorney General Robert LaBar – were recognized for bringing down a massive fraud and theft scheme conducted by Rafael Levi and his associates.
The Levi Organization submitted fictitious and non-existent insurance policies as well as forged and counterfeit insurance cards to both the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Department of State to establish used car dealerships and transporter businesses in counties throughout Pennsylvania. They then fraudulently obtained thousands of dealer and transporter license plates which they rented to individuals and businesses in and around New York City. These individuals and businesses were also supplied with forged and counterfeit insurance cards and were driving without insurance. The used car dealerships were also used to wash vehicle titles, falsify odometer information and remove valid lienholders from vehicle titles and erase their security interests in the vehicles.
As a result of a nearly two year investigation which included the assistance of various agencies in Pennsylvania and New York, 14 individuals and 14 businesses were charged with numerous offenses. While sentencing is not yet complete, the three ringleaders have pled guilty and each business they created will be ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 and a civil penalty of $15,000 to the IFPA for a total of $325,000. The ringleaders will collectively pay nearly $1.5 million dollars in penalties and restitution. Levi will also forfeit numerous luxury vehicles.
Janene Hartlieb, SIU investigator with Travelers Insurance in Reading, was recognized for her investigation of an attempted insurance scam involving the falsely reported theft of diamond rings.
Special Agent William McKee of the Pennsylvania Attorney General Office Insurance Fraud Section, Pittsburgh, and Senior Deputy Attorney General Kara Kotter were recognized for successfully stopping an alleged motor vehicle fraud scheme that was also a significant public safety concern to school children in Allegheny County.
“The criminals in these cases were bold and their schemes elaborate, but they were no match for the expertise and tenacity of our insurance fraud investigators,” said Donahue. “We’re proud to recognize the top professionals who serve on the front lines defending the integrity of the system which is designed to protect us all.”