Police Officers, Physician Charged in Insurance Sting
Aug. 18, 1993
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ It's a scene that's become commonplace, transit operators say: People scramble to get onto a bus after an accident, then file big insurance claims for faked injuries, sometimes with the help of unscrupulous doctors, lawyers and even police officers.
These ''ghost riders'' have been reported in New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas and Broward County, Fla., among other places. But the state of New Jersey decided to do something about it. During the last three years, the state has staged more than 10 accidents, filmed them, then watched as the ghost riders tried to collect.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark, which assisted the state Insurance Department in the investigation, on Tuesday announced that two Newark police officers and one doctor had been indicted.
The police are charged with adding a passenger to the list of those injured on a bus. The physician was charged with billing for treatment that never took place.
State officisals say that starting Thursday, 107 more people will be receiving notices they face civil fines or prosecution. They include nine doctors and chiropractors and four lawyers.
After one staged accident in East Orange, N.J., in March, video cameras filmed 17 people getting onto the bus before police arrived, The New York Times reported today. All later claimed to have been injured in the accident, the newspaper said. Two others who were never even on the bus also filed claims.
Doctors and lawyers have filed claims for hundreds of thousands of dollars for injuries purportedly sustained in the accident, the Times reported.
Another time, a man jumped onto a bus three minutes after a 1992 accident and told the passengers on board: ''All you people who want to get paid you stay right there, stay down. Wait for the ambulance to come. Your neck hurts, your legs hurt. All of that. You'll get some money. Stay there. They pay.''
Experts said this kind of insurance fraud is difficult to prove, and very costly.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, an industry trade group, estimates that perhaps 10 percent of the $13 billion paid out every year in medical bills for motor-vehical accidents goes for fradulent or abusive claims.
''We have had some cases where passengers put in for claims when the bus had not even been in an accident,'' said Frank P. Gallagher, president of the Orange, Newark and Elizabeth Bus Co., known as One.
Earlier this year, a bus driver stopped to see if anyone needed assistance after a truck and car collided. Bus passengers heard the crash and assumed the bus had been hit. Twenty-seven filed claims, Gallagher said.
Gallagher said his company's annual insurance premiums have risen from $9,000 a bus six years ago to $23,000 per bus.
''This could happen in New York or Chicago or any big city where people believe there is nothing wrong with cheating on insurance,'' said Louis Parisi, head of the fraud division for the New Jersey Insurance Department.