11 charged in Delco insurance fraud

Franklin Wilson, center, is escorted into the Delaware County courthouse by two detectives. He is charged in connection with an insurance fraud case. MARI A. SCHAEFER, staff

The body-shop owner allegedly drove cars into poles and damaged them with forklifts - right across the street from the Darby Borough police station - in a scam to collect inflated claims from insurance companies.

On Monday, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan announced charges in a four-year investigation into the elaborate scheme that cost companies at least $85,000 and involved 11 individuals.

Whelan said he expected to uncover further instances in the fraud scheme, adding, "We'd be naive to think this is the only amount of activity."

Franklin Thomas Wilson, 45, of Middletown, Del., owner of Transformers Collision Specialists, in Darby, was the alleged mastermind, the District Attorney's Office said.

He was charged with multiple counts of filing false insurance claims, theft, receiving stolen property, criminal mischief, and related crimes, according to court documents.

Wilson's daughter, Ashely Wilson, 26, and her mother, Letisha Johnson, 44, both of Philadelphia, also were charged.

As he was being led into the courthouse after his arrest Monday, Wilson, held in lieu of $150,000 bail, said he "will wait for his day in court" to comment.

According to court documents:

Wilson would meet with customers who had brought their vehicles to his shop, at 1006 Summit St., to get estimates. Wilson then would take the vehicles to an empty garage across from the Darby police station and further damage the cars before insurance adjusters arrived.

After the insurance claim was paid, Wilson would fix the cars at a lower cost and pocket any differences. He would sometimes pay third parties a percentage of the profits if they had referred customers to him.

The information came to light when an unidentified individual met with police. The informant had recommended at least 30 customers to Wilson in the last several years and collected about $10,000 in profits.

In one instance, two employees at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital were involved in a parking lot fender bender. One car sustained a scratch and a broken taillight. The driver who was at fault paid $1,900 out of pocket instead of involving her insurance company. Neither she nor the other driver realized the costs had been exaggerated until police compared the photos she took right after the accident to the ones State Farm agents had taken later.

 


mschaefer@phillynews.com

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@MariSchaefer