A Chalfont shop owner has been charged with fraudulently collecting more than $400,000 in insurance claims after he deliberately damaged cars brought in for repair or made them look damaged when they weren’t there.
Newtown Township resident John Reis, 56, was recently arrested on four counts of insurance fraud and theft by deception last month following a four-year investigation into nearly 300 fraudulent insurance claims at his business, Chalfont Collision in the 70 block of Park Avenue.
His attorney, David Mischak, described his client as a “very respectable” business owner who responded “very cooperatively” and sought to “resolve all issues.”
“Mr. Reis has a strong reputation in the community and is committed to maintaining an excellent business and continuing to serve the community,” Mischak said Tuesday via email.
The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit began investigating Reis in 2018 after being referred from a special investigation unit for Erie Insurance Company, according to a press release.
Chalfont Collision was a direct repair center for Erie Insurance and other insurance companies, which means that the garage signs have been verified by the insurance company and they were allowed to write statistics and complete repairs and send estimates and loans to the insurance company’s customers.
Erie Insurance said it received an anonymous tip that Reis had been seen “infrequently” scraping compound off a car and using a hammer to damage it and increase his estimate and bills, authorities said.
The tipster said that the mix gives the appearance of “some damage” that doesn’t exist; the component did not damage the car and was easily removed.
The District Attorney’s Office says Reis collected $426,000 in fraudulent payments between 2014 and this year, according to the release.
In addition to Erie Insurance, investigators found that at least three other insurance companies — CSAA Insurance Group, Liberty Mutual Insurance and Nationwide Insurance — were also defrauded.
Authorities said they found 185 of the 289 allegedly fraudulent or fraudulent transactions sent to Liberty Mutual, totaling $310,000.
Bucks County Police, along with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Central Bucks Police Department, served a search warrant at the Chalfont Collision earlier this year, seizing evidence that included photos, files, and computers.
When questioned, another employee told investigators that he saw Reis using paint on the panels of cars and hitting the cars with a hammer on the parts of the cars that were not damaged.
Officers also found an item used to fake damage to the exterior of the car when it wasn’t there. The fraud losses were recorded and added to increase the amount, according to the determination of the probability.
In some cases, Reis used the same damaged parts in the pictures, allowing the garage to pay the same amount for multiple estimates, investigators said.
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Investigators say they found nine invoices that were sent to Liberty Mutual.
Six of the sales receipts between 2018 and 2020 were allegedly from South End Auto Parts in Morrisville, although the company went out of business in 2017, according to authorities.
Three additional receipts for last year came from a Chalfont business that told investigators it stopped doing business with Chalfont Collision in 2019.
According to authorities, in an interview with investigators in May, Reis admitted to lying about 200 insurance claims after his business went under in 2018. He said he falsified many of them by putting ingredients on the sides of cars to make them appear. there was damage.
Mr. Reis allegedly told investigators that he often applied the system to cars insured by Erie or Liberty Mutual because the companies did not send a “reinspector” to the shop to look at the damage, according to the affidavit.
He also said that he admitted that he also created blank receipts for the business by writing Whiteout on valid receipts that he had already received. They then write out fraudulent receipts and send them to the insurance company for payment.
Reis is free on $150,000 unsecured bail, meaning he did not have to post money.
This article first appeared on the Bucks County Courier Times: The owner of a Central Bucks garage is accused of defrauding insurance companies of $400K