The owners of a family auto collision business in South Philadelphia are among 41 people charged for their alleged roles in a major insurance scheme that prosecutors say involved fake car accidents and dead deer.
Officials say a 16-month grand jury investigation of the American Collision and Auto Center located at 1930 S. 20th St. revealed an elaborate scheme led by shop owner Ronald Galati Sr. He's accused of leading a team of accomplices, including his wife, son, and daughter, as well as a number of insurance adjusters, tow truck drivers, a city official, and a Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) officer to falsify insurance claims for financial gain.
Co-conspirators in the case say Galati Sr.'s motto was, "I live my life to cheat insurance companies -- my high every day is to cheat insurance companies."
District Attorney Seth Williams released details of the investigation on Wednesday afternoon.
According to investigators, Galati Sr. routinely created false accounts of vehicles being damaged by accidents involving falling objects, deer, and other animals to increase amounts received for insurance claims. Investigators say Galati Sr. went as far as to have employees gather and store deer blood, hair and carcasses in the shop's garage to be used as props in photos that were later submitted with insurance claims.
The false claims were reportedly legitimized with the help of PPD officer Douglas DiEmidio, Erie Insurance Company adjuster Cheryl Stanton, Allstate Insurance Company adjuster Arthur Juliano, and several local South Philadelphia tow truck drivers.
In addition to altering insurance claims, investigators say Galati Sr. orchestrated deliberate car collisions and ordered cars to be purposely vandalized to generate business for his shop.
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Fraudulent claims submitted as a part of the scheme resulted in the issuance of more than $2.3 million in payments from insurance companies.
Officials say Galati also conspired with City Office of Fleet Management employee Robert Otterson to obtain a lucrative, $1.8 million contract with the City, even though the shop did not meet all contract requirements.
Galati Sr. now faces charges for hundreds of counts of conspiracy, insurance fraud, and theft by deception, among other felony charges.
Authorities have arrested 14 alleged participants and are in the process of arresting 27 other individuals that they say were involved in the scheme.