Weekly Car Insurance Crime Watch: November 22nd

Silver handcuff and dollar bank notesThe news doesn’t stop, because crime never does either.

With the deluge of crime stories that Online Auto Insurance News (OAIN) sees every day relating to car coverage, here is a roundup of this week’s biggest headline-grabbing yarns.

And it certainly is a deluge. This week, a few stories about when civic government goes wrong: Erie Insurance uncovers a magisterial mixup devised by a man trying to pump up his claim payout; video breaks a fraud case open on a former vice mayor of a small town; and a look into Hurricane Sandy claims brings arrests for a state task force.

No Precedent for Claims-Related Judicial Impersonation

Somewhere in the shadowed hallways of insurance companies, investigators pore over piles of claims. Some are labeled “gotta be fraud,” others “kinda odd, so maybe true?”

The following claim was probably pulled out of the latter and re-filed in the former.

Twenty-five-year-old Justin Serfass of Pennsylvania lost his candidacy for West Bethlehem district judge in November 2011 when he was still in negotiations with Erie Insurance about a crash that occurred that summer.

Despite the election loss, authorities say Serfass continued to use “his status as a district judge on multiple occasions” with Erie employees. In other documents as far back as May 2012, Serfass identified himself as a “certified magisterial district judge” when rebuffing Erie’s $2,200 settlement, according to Lehighvalleylive.com.

According to his attorney, Serfass meant to put the emphasis on “certified”; he had passed a training course with a stellar 98 percent that qualified him for the district judge position.

But magisterial district judgeships aren’t bestowed on those completing certificate programs, said Judge Robert Steinberg, who sentenced Serfass to one year of probation and a $300 fine and added that there was no legal precedent for such a case.

Precedent or not, assistant District Attorney Steven Luksa said authorities pursued the case on timeless, tried-and-true moral grounds:

“You can’t have people going around impersonating judges or district judges.”

Serfass ultimately pleaded no contest to the charge of impersonating a public servant.

“He’s proud of his position and went a little bit too far,” his attorney told the publication.

Note to self: What looks good on mama’s fireplace mantle might look the same in a pile of papers in the insurance claims department.

A Car Crash, a Concert and the Former Vice Mayor

Surgoinsville, Tenn., is a small town of no more than a few thousand folks.

So when something happens as big as a former vice mayor crashing his car in front of city hall after Mayor Johnny Greer’s concert, people will get to talkin’.

And if talk doesn’t fully suss out the details that police need, video footage will do just fine.

Former vice mayor Charles “Otis” Lawson filed a car insurance crash claim, while his passenger filed a medical insurance claim, after he said he crashed into a parked car when trying to avoid an oncoming vehicle last month. Police interviewed witnesses who said there was no such car, according to TimesNews.net.

Police eventually confronted Lawson’s passenger with video evidence showing that Lawson had made “several passes” with no sign of an oncoming vehicle. The passenger eventually said in a statement that Lawson was in a cell phone conversation, saying “look at all the cars parked for Johnny Greer’s show. I ought to hit one and sue the city.”

For his part, Lawson said the charges stem from political bad blood. He was booted from the Surgoinsville Board of Mayor and Alderman in 2006 after Greer’s win, and years later pleaded guilty to felony charges, reported TimesNews.net, which said that “the biggest part of” Lawson’s insurance claim was for a computer he said was wrecked in the crash.

Lawson’s passenger said the computer was already wrecked before the crash.

Shady Superstorm Sandy Claims Lead to Auto Shop Owner’s Arrest

Superstorm Sandy is more than a year past us now, but news about claims from the disaster is still resurfacing.

A Connecticut auto shop owner was arrested this week for flood damage claims on four trucks. The Connecticut State Police Auto Theft Task Force says that Anthony Monaco’s claims are fraudulent.

Most Sandy claims were centered around New York and New Jersey, but others stretched across the northeastern U.S., also originating in states like Connecticut and Ohio.

Authorities have not only warned scamsters about filing fraudulent claims but also noticed consumers about unknowingly buying refurbished cars damaged in the catastrophe.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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