Jon Campisi Oct. 17, 2011, 7:31am

Get-rich-quick schemes involving false injury claims on the city’s public transit system may be coming to an abrupt halt, that is, if a crackdown by the city’s top prosecutor sees any traction.

The Philadelphia District Attorney has announced a push to spend more time and effort punishing those who attempt to defraud the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

The anti-fraud campaign was jointly announced by the office of District Attorney Seth Williams and SEPTA officials Oct. 13.

The aim is to cut down on the number of false injury claims made by riders of the city’s public transit system.

The campaign will rely heavily on the use of surveillance cameras that have been installed in SEPTA buses, trains and trolleys. Nearly half of the fleet is equipped with the technology.

A news release issued by Williams’ office the day the announcement was made stated that video cameras have already aided in the number of supposed injury cases filed against the transit agency.

“A picture is truly worth a thousand words in these cases,” Williams said in the release. “These cameras have been extremely beneficial to our office to prosecute crimes that in the past have been very difficult to prove. We have entered a new age of crime fighting and it is all thanks to this technology.”

Video footage has recently aided in the prosecution of a number of claimants who sued SEPTA following supposed accidents in which the plaintiffs got hurt. In reality, the district attorney said, these folks were caught on camera entering SEPTA vehicles that had just become involved in auto accidents, and sprawling themselves out on the floor or in seats in an attempt to stage an injury.

Without video evidence, the news release states, transit riders and taxpayers could have footed the bill for thousands of dollars in injury payouts.

Payouts for fraudulent claims against the transit agency have jumped more than 10 percent to more than $40 million during the past two years, the news release states.

According to an Oct. 14 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, 2,389 SEPTA passengers were injured or claimed to have been injured in the 12 months ending on June 30. A total of 3,627 SEPTA vehicles were involved in accidents.

At a news conference Oct. 13, officials showed members of the media footage from six accidents involving passengers who were later prosecuted for filing false injury claims, according to the newspaper account. The plaintiffs in the cases had brought about a total of $300,000 in medical bill claims.

“Fraud perpetrated against SEPTA is a crime that claims our loyal, honest customers and the taxpayers as victims,” SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey stated in the news release. “With the assistance of new technology and the partnership with the District Attorney’s Office, we hope to root out fraud for good.”

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