Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced yesterday the results of a 16-month grand jury investigation: 41 people charged in a massive insurance fraud scam. The alleged kingpin? Ron Galati Sr., a reputed mob associate who is already charged in multiple murder-for-hire plots. Busy guy!
“I live my life to cheat insurance companies,” cooperating witnesses were quoted as saying in the Daily News. “My high every day is to cheat insurance companies.” Progressive and Erie Insurance Companies were the first to alert the authorities.
The fraud was an elaborate one, prosecutors say. Multiple grand jury witnesses testified Galati kept deer carcasses, hair, and blood in his shop in order to stage deer collisions. Those are usually deemed non-fault accidents, so the insured party would not be found at fault.
The release from the DA's office continues:
These deer remnants, along with weeds which American Collision employees were instructed to fetch from the Penrose Avenue river banks, served as props for what Galati deemed “Hollywood Photos,” or deceptive pictures of alleged vehicular damages which were submitted as part of insurance claims. In addition to deer hits, American Collision customers also filed claims alleging to have inadvertently collided with geese, dogs, cartons of fruit, flying metal and falling concrete.
Cartons of fruit, like in a movie! I wonder if Galati was inspired by Wayne's World 2.
The scheme got deeper, according to prosecutors: Galati would allegedly give tow truck drivers the addresses of previous customers and have them vandalize their cars — so they'd have to come in for more work. He's also accused of instructing drivers to crash into his own luxury cars, in order to get insurance money to pay for them.
And, of course, Galati had a $1.8 million contract with the city. He's alleged to have received it from Robert Otterson, an associate in city government, who is alleged to have falsified documents. (William Bender's story in today's Daily News has a great lede.)
Galati and Philip Sessa are also accused of stealing a boat from a marina in Somers Point, New Jersey.