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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ex-cop, 2nd man charged in $1M insurance fraud

The Philadelphia Daily News by Damon C. Williams ( 215-854-5924)
originally posted May 23, 2008

The alleged mastermind of an insurance scam that involved a Philadelphia police officer was charged yesterday with defrauding 10 insurance companies of more than $1 million through an elaborate scheme of fake car accidents and fraudulent police reports. The former officer, Deshane Riggins, 28, was charged in January in connection with writing a host of phony, accident reports. The District Attorney's Office announced yesterday that authorities nabbed the alleged ringleader, Wallace Morris, Sr., known as "Pops," of Hatfield Street near 57th. Morris was charged with 187 counts of insurance fraud, bribery, conspiracy, perjury, theft and related charges, District Attorney Lynne Abraham said. Morris and Riggins worked in unison for more than two years to swindle at least 10 insurance companies through more than 187 phony claims, Abraham said.

The insurance companies - Progressive, State Farm, AIG, Allstate, Cambridge, Erie, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide and American Independent - paid out more than $1 million to the claimants and numerous doctors and lawyers allegedly involved. The plot involved hundreds of people, including friends and family members, along with a wide array of doctors and lawyers, Abraham said. Morris and Riggins allegedly conspired to create fake accidents, explaining that if somebody had some damage to their car, they "agreed with Morris to get a corrupt agreement together to make a few illegal bucks from claiming insurance," Abraham said. The scheme worked like this: There were two cars with two passengers in each, making a total of six people altogether who could file. Riggins, with prior knowledge of the faked accidents, wrote the fraudulent police report to strengthen the insurance claims, Abraham said. Morris then steered the claimants to doctors and lawyers who were also in on the scheme. Morris got money from both ends of the shady deal, Abraham said. He allegedly received a fee from each doctor or lawyer he sent to them, and also wanted a piece of the insurance payout that the claimants received from the insurance companies.

The plan unraveled, Abraham said, when investigators from Progressive questioned one of the claimants, who then admitted the accident was faked. Progressive then tipped off the D.A.'s office, which led to the arrest of Riggins and Morris. Riggins, a seven-year veteran of the force, was assigned to the 14th District when he was placed on administrative duties and later fired in February. Riggins was charged with 19 counts each of insurance fraud, tampering with public records, bribery and criminal conspiracy. Abraham said that Morris and Riggins raked in up to $100,000 in the scheme. Riggins, facing "a lengthy prison term," has been cooperative with investigators, Abraham said, and her office will soon arrest the lawyers and doctors involved in the plot, once their complicity is established. "These cases simply cannot exist unless there is an agreement, a conspiracy, between doctors, lawyers, police officers in this case and a mastermind," Abraham said. "And in this case, Morris appears to be the mastermind." 

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