Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced last week that his office has
charged two people with filing false personal injury claims against the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority stemming from an alleged incident that occurred aboard a mass transit bus in early 2011.
The prosecutor’s office lodged insurance fraud and attempted theft by deception charges against Lannette White, 48, and 21-year-old Zahirah Gray, both Philadelphia residents.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, White and Gray were riding the SEPTA bus on March 30, 2011, when the vehicle was suddenly struck by a white van at about 2 in the afternoon while the bus was stopped at 20th and Market streets in downtown Philadelphia.
Both White and Gray later filed personal injury claims against the mass transit agency in which they claimed they were seriously injured as a result of the incident.
The bus on which they were riding, however, comes equipped with surveillance cameras, and upon reviewing the footage from that day, a detective in the Insurance Fraud Unit in the D.A.’s Office determined that there had been no movements by the bus that would explain the claims of injuries by the two people.
“In fact, the video revealed that there was no significant movement of any of the passengers aboard the bus at the time of the accident,” reads a statement issued by the D.A.’s Office. “In addition, the operator of the bus was not certain the bus had actually been struck until she checked for damage and noticed a scrape on the side of the bus.”
The bus was not taken out of service that day and was able to complete its route.
Gray made a claim to SEPTA for $11,298 in medical bills for treatment of alleged injuries to her right ankle and neck, while the transit agency received a claim for $12,770 from White for medical bills supposedly stemming from the treatment of injuries to her shoulders, neck and lower back.
Both of the defendants turned themselves into authorities.
The arrests came after a similar announcement by Williams’ office late last year, previously reported by the Pennsylvania Record, in which a total of six people were criminally charged for filing false personal injury claims against SEPTA stemming from an alleged incident on Thanksgiving night in 2010 in which a woman claimed she had become injured after tripping and falling while walking to the rear of a mass transit bus in Northeast Philadelphia.
The bus, however, had not been involved in an accident or made any sudden movements that would have explained the woman’s injuries.
Others later came forward claiming they, too, had sustained injuries during that same alleged incident, but similar to the recent arrest of the two Philadelphia women, cameras on the bus in the 2010 incident proved the six prior injury claims appeared to have been fabricated.
SEPTA ended up receiving a total of $54,000 in medical bills in connection with the claims that arose out of the 2010 incident.