Criminal charges have been announced against 60 Pennsylvanians following investigations by the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section. As a result, 23 people were charged in Eastern Pennsylvania, 10 in Central Pennsylvania and 27 in Western Pennsylvania.
The charges came about after a statewide sweep conducted by the Insurance Fraud Section during the months of September and October 2018.
A release issued by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office noted a sampling of the charges, pointing first to the eastern region of Pennsylvania, where Jermond Harper was charged with theft by deception, insurance fraud, forgery and other charges. It is alleged that Harper filed a theft claim on November 13, 2017, claiming 18 items were stolen from his vehicle and submitted receipts for multiple mink coats and jackets valued at more than $43,000 to support his claim.
An investigation revealed that Harper provided three fake receipts for mink coats totaling more than $20,000. The owner of the men’s clothing store listed on the receipts confirmed they were fake and he had not given anyone permission to create receipts, and that his store did not sell coats of that high-end value. Harper was arrested on October 29, 2018.
In the central region of Pennsylvania, the release noted Brenda Avellino was charged with theft by deception and insurance fraud. It is alleged Avellino misrepresented prior damage to her vehicle as new damage in an attempt to obtain more than $2,000. On May 29, 2014, Avellino purchased a car and noted on sale documents she was purchasing a vehicle with hail damage and the vehicle was reduced in price due to the damage. On April 8, 2016, Avellino reported to Erie Insurance that her car had been damaged due to a hail storm on April 7, 2016. An investigation revealed the last hail storm in Bloomsburg, Penn., was on May 22, 2014, there were no records of a hail storm on April 7, 2016, and the damage was never repaired when she purchased the car in 2014. Avellino was arrested on October 15, 2018.
The release added that in Pennsylvania’s western region, Shane Valentine was charged with theft by deception and insurance fraud. It is alleged Valentine filed an auto accident report with his auto insurer, Progressive Insurance, on January 19, 2018, after he purchased auto insurance online on December 21, 2017. In his accident report, Valentine advised that his vehicle was parked at a trailer park in Pennsylvania while he went out with some friends, and the vehicle was damaged when he returned.
An investigation revealed a police accident report from the Ohio State Highway Patrol indicated Valentine was involved in a hit and run accident in December 9, 2017, which included extensive damage to the driver’s side rear of the vehicle. This contradicts the accident reported on January 19, 2018. The attempted amount of theft was $5,172. Valentine was arrested on September 17, 2018.
Since Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro took office in January 2017, the Office of the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section has charged 367 people with insurance fraud cases, the release stated.
“Insurance fraud is a serious crime that impacts consumers and policyholders across our commonwealth,” Attorney General Shapiro said in the release. “We will aggressively prosecute anyone who breaks the law by providing false information to an insurance company. When people commit insurance fraud, it causes premiums to rise for the folks who do follow the rules. It’s wrong, and we’re taking action to stop it.”
The charges announced November 2, 2018, involve some of the most common types of insurance fraud. All cases are still pending.
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