8 charged in Pa. with insurance fraud

Pennsylvania insurance fraud charges.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WKBN) – Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced Thursday that criminal charges have been filed against eight individuals across the Commonwealth following unrelated insurance fraud investigations.

The charges, which were filed in recent weeks, were the result of investigations by the Office of Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section.

“Insurance fraud is one of the most costly crimes in the entire country,” Attorney General Kane said. “We all pay when insurance rates spike due to fraud, which makes it extremely important that we continue to investigate and prosecute those who seek to defraud insurance companies.”

Below is a list of the defendants, the charges against them and a description of their alleged criminal acts.

Western region:

  • Percy E. Law III , 47, 1324 Meldon Ave., Donora, Washington County, was charged Aug. 28 with one count each of forgery, theft by deception, identity theft and insurance fraud. An investigation revealed that Law, who worked as a licensed insurance agent for Monumental Life Insurance Company, allegedly submitted 16 fraudulent life insurance policy applications to his company for the purpose of collecting commission payments to which he was not entitled, resulting in $20,000 in commissions.
  • James Alston , 51, 435 Ella St., Apt. 2, Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County, was charged Sept. 14 with one count each of insurance fraud and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. An investigation revealed that Alston in December filed a claim with Progressive Insurance, his insurer, claiming that his parked Buick Rainier was damaged in a hit-and-run accident. Agents said they learned the accident actually occurred when Alston struck another vehicle while he was being paid to transport two individuals.
  • Mario Anthony Giannotti , 25, 3188 Sportsman Road, Apollo, Armstrong County, was charged Sept. 9 with two counts of insurance fraud and one count of criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. An investigation revealed that Giannotti’s automobile insurance policy with Progressive Insurance lapsed in November of last year. The following month, agents said Giannotti made a payment to reinstate the policy, at which point he also claimed that he had not been involved in an accident since his policy lapsed. The day after the policy was reinstated, Giannotti filed a claim related to an accident in which he reported that his vehicle was struck from behind by another vehicle. Agents said they learned the accident actually occurred roughly 90 minutes before Giannotti called to reinstate his auto insurance policy. A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 14.
  • Heath M. Copenhaver , 36, and Brianne L. Copenhaver, 35, both of 129 Forest Lane, Shelocta, Indiana County, were charged Sept. 9 with two counts each of insurance fraud and one count each of criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. In January, Brianne Copenhaver added full comprehensive and collision coverage to an insurance policy for a Ford Freestyle. On the same day that the coverage was added, investigators said that Brianne Copenhaver filed a claim stating that her husband, Heath, had been involved in an accident that day. Both Brianne and Heath Copenhaver gave statements to Progressive Insurance, their insurer, stating that the accident occurred at noon that day. It was later determined that the accident actually occurred before Brianne Copenhaver added coverage to her existing policy, investigators reported. A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 2.
  • Theresa Lynn Sample , 25, 204 4th St., St. Mary’s, Elk County, was charged Sept. 25 with one count each of insurance fraud and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. An investigation revealed Sample allegedly made a claim to Geico, her insurance company, stating that she was involved in an accident in July of last year in which she struck another vehicle. A Pennsylvania State Police report confirmed Sample’s boyfriend was actually the one driving the vehicle, which was not insured at the time of the accident, investigators said. Sample is accused of calling Geico after the accident occurred to obtain insurance. Sample is awaiting a preliminary arraignment.

Eastern region:

  • David Lenzie Alston , 1 Reason Lane, Coatesville, Chester County, was charged Sept. 17 with one count each of insurance fraud and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. An investigation revealed that Alston was involved in a motor vehicle accident in June 2013. Alston’s vehicle, a Dodge Ram, was not insured at the time of the accident, investigators reported. After the accident occurred, Alston allegedly called his insurer, Infinity Insurance, to transfer coverage from a different vehicle to the Dodge Ram that was involved in the accident. He is also accused of misrepresenting the time of the accident to the insurance company. Alston is awaiting a preliminary hearing that is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9.
  • Shakyrah Laurae Barnett , 27, 6614 Hollis St., Philadelphia, was charged Aug. 18 with one count each of insurance fraud, unsworn falsification to police and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. An investigation revealed that Barnett allegedly submitted false documentation, including medical bills, indicating that she was injured in March 2011 when the car her mother was driving was involved in an accident. Investigators said they learned Barnett was in fact not inside the vehicle during the accident, but nonetheless signed an application for benefits with Allstate Insurance, her mother’s insurer. Barnett waived a preliminary hearing on Sept. 14. A formal arraignment is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 12.

Private citizens can report allegations of insurance fraud using an online form or by calling the IFPA’s hotline at 1-888-565-IFPA (4372).

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