Phila. personal injury lawyer commits suicide as D.A. prepares charges in slip-and-fall insurance fraud scheme

By Jon Campisi | Apr 25, 2014

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams was preparing to have private

practice lawyer Andrew H. Gaber hauled in on Wednesday and charged with running a slip-and-fall scheme that is said to have defrauded more than 21 different insurance companies out of close to $400,000.

The arrest, however, would never come – Gaber, a 52-year-old lawyer with a solo practice in Center City committed suicide last week.

The tragic death came in the wake of Williams’s announcement that a two-year grand jury investigation into the complex ring had recently wrapped up.

While Gaber’s death will prevent the sole practitioner from facing justice in his alleged role in the fraud, the prosecutor will be charging 24 others for participating in a scheme to stage slip-and-fall accidents.

The defendants include people who falsely claimed to have suffered accidents and injuries and the so-called “runners” who recruited them to lie.

The grand jury investigation determined that the massive scheme was run by Gaber, who operated primarily on referral business, meaning that more than 95 percent of the firm’s cases were brought in by “runners,” according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Some of the runners are said to have referred more than 50 cases each to the law firm during a three-year period.

The insurance fraud operation enlisted claimants who were encouraged to fabricate falls and lie about injuries to emergency medical personnel in order to deceive insurance companies.

Claimants, for their part in the scheme, received a portion of the cash settlements, or the remaining amount after Gaber’s 40 percent fee, medical bills and any liens were deducted, according to Williams’s office.

The runners allegedly told the “clients” to call 911 and have emergency workers take them to a local hospital for treatment, after which the person would go to see a physician for additional care.

“The importance of this medical treatment was reinforced routinely, and the runners were told to ‘make sure’ the clients would receive therapy,” reads a news release from the District Attorney’s Office. “Gaber then filed fraudulent insurance claims supported by medical records, witness statements, alleged fall spot photographs, and fire rescue and/or ambulance records.”

Evidence in the case showed that the runners brought in 43 fictitious claims; Gaber apparently settled 24 of them for about $382,900 from various insurers.

“We commend the District Attorney’s Office for its continued efforts to fight insurance fraud,” Gary Healy, regional director of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said in a statement. “Today’s announcement sends a clear message that our law enforcement partners are prepared to go the distance to pursue those who would try to take advantage of Pennsylvania insurance companies and their customers.”

The NICB assisted in the investigation, as did a number of insurance companies, including Harleysville, Hartford, State Farm, Zurich, Erie, Allstate, Travelers, Nationwide, Casualty, U.S. Underwriters and others.

The prosecutor’s office stated that to date, 22 people have been arrested and charged with insurance fraud and related crimes in connection with the scheme.

Nineteen of those 22 cases have been disposed of; 15 have entered guilty pleas, four have been granted acceptance into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, and three are scheduled for guilty pleas during upcoming hearings, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Detectives with the office’s Insurance Fraud Unit are preparing to track down and arrest an additional 24 people said to have been involved in the conspiracy.

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