Philly D.A. charges two with filing false insurance claims against SEPTA
In a situation that seems to have become all too common in recent time, Philadelphia’s top law enforcer has announced criminal charges against two city residents for allegedly filing false insurance claims against the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority stemming from a minor vehicle accident that the defendants claimed caused them bodily harm. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced the insurance fraud, attempted theft by deception and conspiracy charges Feb. 6 against 25-year-old Ashantai Pate and 46-year-old Timothy Barton, with the prosecutor saying the two submitted claims to SEPTA for medical bills totaling thousands of dollars despite the fact that video surveillance from the incident that led to the alleged injuries showed that nobody on the bus at the time was even remotely disrupted. Despite what the D.A.’s Office called an “obvious lack of injuries,” the two criminal defendants had filed personal injury claims against SEPTA and Gallagher Bassett Services Inc., the third-party administrator that represented the truck that hit the bus’s driver-side exterior mirror back on Feb. 17, 2011, claiming that they were injured by the jolt of the bus during the time of the minor accident. The accident occurred when SEPTA’s Route 12 bus was traveling southbound on 23rd Street and pulling into the Spruce Street transit stop. At the time, according to prosecutors, a truck made contact with the bus’s sideview mirror, causing the glass to break out of the frame. The bus driver had reported no further damage at the time of the incident and the truck involved sustained no damage whatsoever. No paramedics were called to the scene and the bus was able to continue on its route, the D.A.’s Office announced. Nevertheless, Pate and Barton went on to seek treatment at an area hospital, and subsequently submitted their claims to SEPTA. Pate’s medical records cite back injuries and indicate that she reported that the force of the incident caused her to “jerk sideways and slam against the window,” the District Attorney’s Office stated in a news release. Pate went on to receive treatment from March to August 2011 and presented SEPTA with medical bills totaling more than $5,000, according to Williams’ office. Barton’s medical records state that he complained of headaches and neck and back pain as a result of whiplash suffered in the accident, and show that he received medical treatment 39 times between February and July 2011. He went on to present SEPTA with medical bills totaling more than $6,000, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Williams announced that after reviewing surveillance footage from the SEPTA bus, which shows that “no injuries occurred during the minor incident,” detectives from the District Attorney’s Office’s Insurance Unit arrested both of the defendants. Pate and Barton are scheduled to appear in Philadelphia’s Municipal Court on Feb. 12 to answer the charges.