PHILADELPHIA – Ten individuals were arrested on insurance fraud charges for a 2004 bus accident that was allegedly staged so that passengers could cash in on false injury claims.
Attorney General Tom Corbett said that on April 18, 2004 a Wertz bus chartered to carry passengers from Philadelphia to Atlantic City was struck by a car at the intersection of Berkley and Morris Streets in Philadelphia.
According to the affidavit, there were 21 passengers listed on the police report; however, Lancer Insurance Company, Wertz’s insurer, received insurance claims for 29 individuals.
“This alleged scheme was an elaborate attempt to scam the Wertz Motor Coach and Lancer Insurance out of thousands of dollars,” Corbett said. “These are serious allegations that carry significant fines and jail time.”
Corbett said the Wertz bus was scheduled to depart from the pick-up location at 1:30 p.m., but was delayed by Arthur Brown III, the group’s leader. At approximately 2:40 p.m., Brown allegedly received a cell phone call and then determined they were ready to leave.
The investigation revealed that approximately five minutes after departing from the pick-up location, the bus was struck in the right middle luggage bay doors by an uninsured vehicle. Files indicate that both vehicles sustained very little damage and were removed under their own power from the scene of the accident.
Corbett said 20 of the 21 passengers on the bus immediately reported injuries and were transported by the Wertz bus to the Medical College of Pennsylvania. Lancer eventually received claims for all 21 passengers plus eight individuals who were not on the bus at the time of the crash. The reported injuries were all “soft tissue” injuries.
Corbett said the driver of the car also accompanied the bus to the MCP hospital, but when police arrived, he left.
According to the criminal complaint, the owner of the car was a cousin of Shahiedah Nicholson, a passenger on the bus who sought medical treatment totaling $4,449 for 53 alleged therapy sessions for lower back pain that took place between April and Sept. of 2004.
Corbett said Nicholson’s sister, Shaakira Nicholson, her aunt, Trina Nicholson, and her aunt’s husband, Antonio Tarrance, also filed insurance claims even though they were not on the bus at the time of the accident. Shahiedah allegedly called Shaakira to tell her about the accident, and told her she could start therapy and claim she was injured since her name appeared on the bus list.
Corbett said the bus was chartered by Brown for another individual who supplied the money and sold bus tickets with two of his brothers.
The affidavit states that Brown allegedly filed claims for nine chiropractic sessions and pursued litigation against the insurance company. No monetary amount was provided for these sessions.
Lancer received medical bills for each of the 10 defendants arrested today. The total amount billed for the 12 defendants being charged was more than $29,556, with more than $26,022 actually being paid.
All 12 defendants are being charged with two counts of insurance fraud, one count theft by deception, one count criminal attempt to commit theft by deception, and one count criminal conspiracy to commit theft by deception. Each charge is a felony of the third degree, which holds a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.
Corbett said the investigation into this alleged criminal activity is still ongoing.
Corbett said the case will be prosecuted in Philadelphia by Senior Deputy Attorney General Eric Schoenberg of the Insurance Fraud Section.
The following is a list of defendants:
– Anthony Vereen, 23, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $5,000 and paid $5,000.
– Shahiedah Nicholson, 28, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $4,449.22 and paid $4,449.22.
– Anthony Dunston, 29, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $4,365.20 and paid $3,461.52.
– Shaakira Nicholson, 26, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $4,443 and paid $4,443.
– Trina Nicholson, 42, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $820, but did not pay.
– Keith Prather, 44, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $280, but did not pay.
– Lynwood Gresham, 23, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $2,745.63 and paid $2,745.63.
– Matasha Smith, 26, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $1,227.04 and paid $1,227.04.
– Antonio Tarrance, 44, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $585, but did not pay.
– Eugene Thomas, 41, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $4,696 and paid $4,696.
– Lakieta Allen, 32, Philadelphia. Lancer received bills for $945.70.
– Arthur Brown III, 50, Philadelphia. Lancer received claim documentation and treatment notes, but no dollar value was give for treatments.