Firm in Fatal Truck Conn. Crash Faces Liquidation; Owner Charged with Fraud

By | November 4, 2005

The owner of a Bloomfield company that is blamed for a deadly chain reaction crash in Avon was arrested Wednesday on charges of attempted insurance fraud and attempted larceny.

Just an hour earlier, a Superior Court judge had ordered the liquidation of American Crushing & Recycling, which owns the truck involved in the July 29 crash that killed four people.

Judge John Langenbach issued the liquidation ruling following a hearing at which owner David Wilcox refused to testify. Langenbach also accepted the report of a court-appointed receiver who said the company is not a viable business.

Wilcox, 70, had not yet been charged when the hearing was held, but his lawyer said he needed to assert his constitutional right not to incriminate himself. Wilcox’s wife, Donna, 40, also was charged Wednesday.

The Wilcoxes last January suspended liability coverage for the truck involved in the accident and 11 other trucks, according to the arrest warrant. American Crushing & Recycling was refunded $39,976.

According to the warrant, Donna Wilcox phoned the trucking company’s insurance agent shortly after the crash to inquire about liability coverage on the 12 trucks.

She asked that coverage be reinstated retroactively to July 1 and wanted an immediate, written verification of her request, the arrest warrant states.

Soon after the accident, David Wilcox became aware that one of his company’s trucks was involved in the crash. Donna Wilcox failed to mention that to the insurance agent, despite receiving 12 cell phone calls from her husband in a half-hour period immediately after the crash, according to the arrest warrant.

Prosecutors allege they were attempting to obtain between $1 million and $3 million in additional insurance coverage for the truck involved in the crash.

In addition, Wilcox is accused of presenting Avon police with a liability insurance card for the dump truck even though he knew the vehicle was uninsured.

Hubert Santos, Wilcox’s lawyer, would not comment on the arrests.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has filed a lawsuit against David Wilcox, said the arrest is “appropriate and very well founded.”

Bail was set at $750,000 for David Wilcox and $500,000 for Donna Wilcox. They were scheduled to appear in Hartford Superior Court at 10 a.m. Thursday.

If convicted on three charges of attempted insurance fraud, attempted larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny, the Wilcoxes each face up to 45 years in prison.

Avon police are continuing the crash investigation, said Capt. Mark Rinaldo.

David Wilcox also faces civil lawsuits from the families of the victims.

A Hartford Superior Court judge last month put the company in receivership at the request of lawyers for the victims’ families who said Wilcox had been trying to sell off the company’s assets.

The liquidation order authorizes the court-appointed receiver to sell the company’s assets. The proceeds will be put in escrow while the civil suits are pending.

Michael Stratton, the lawyer for the family of Paul “Chip” Stotler, 42, of New Hartford, who died in the wreck, said after the hearing that any money secured by the company’s liquidation is symbolic.

“It will give victims justice,” he said. “The man no longer runs his business.”

David McKenna, the lawyer representing Wilcox in the civil lawsuits, expressed outrage after the hearing.

“This is America. This shouldn’t happen,” he said.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell this week signed legislation that toughens Connecticut laws for insurance coverage for trucking companies.

The bill, which is a result of the Avon crash, establishes a felony for the owner of a commercial vehicle who knowingly and willfully operates a vehicle without insurance. A conviction would draw a prison sentence of up to five years and $5,000 in fines.

Commercial vehicle owners also must file evidence of insurance with the Department of Motor Vehicles at least every six months.

The law takes effect Jan. 1.

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