SEPTA, Philly DA cracking down on fraud

October 13, 2011 3:46:13 PM PDT
Officials say it happens too often - a SEPTA vehicle is involved in a crash and people try to cash in.

Now, the effort is underway to crack down on fraud.

In a news conference on Thursday, SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey and District Attorney Seth Williams detailed several recent instances in which bus surveillance videos thwarted meritless claims against SEPTA, and led to criminal prosecutions against those involved.

RELATED: Watch the surveillance videos released in this case

Casey and Williams said some claims came from passengers on buses that are lightly tapped by other vehicles. The impact is so minor, they said, that most passengers aren't aware an accident has occurred until they see the bus operator begin post-collision procedures.

Others aren't even passengers. Footage from one case featured in a public service announcement shows one person running down a street and onto a SEPTA bus that had been struck by a passing vehicle, then stretching out over several seats, pretending to be hurt.

Another video revealed a fraudulent claim by a motorist who lost control of his vehicle, sliced through two lanes of opposing traffic and hit a SEPTA bus. He claimed the bus went into oncoming traffic and struck his vehicle.

Officials say, without the videos, these fraudulent claims may have cost transit riders and taxpayers thousands of dollars in injury payouts.

"A picture is truly worth a thousand words in these cases," said District Attorney Seth Williams. "These cameras have been extremely beneficial to our office to prosecute crimes that in the past have been very difficult to prove. We have entered a new age of crime fighting and it is all thanks to this new technology."

A new series of public service announcements will begin airing soon, warning people of trying to defraud SEPTA.

Casey said he hopes this message deters the filing of fraudulent claims against SEPTA, which has seen injury payouts jump more than 10 percent to over $40 million over the last two years.

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