Sessa, 41, of Ventnor, N.J., owner of Philly Collision on Wharton Street near 25th, allegedly conspired with Andrew Yates, 74, a private insurance adjuster, and 11 others to defraud insurance companies of more than $300,000, State Police said.
The schemes involved purposefully inflicting damage to cars, aggravating already existing damage, staging crashes and reporting vehicles as lost or stolen when they were not, police said.
Yates, of Gladwyne, allegedly inflated the costs of damage on some vehicles when submitting his findings to insurance companies. He is charged with insurance fraud, deceptive business practices and related offenses.
Jeffrey Sheehan, 50, of Philadelphia, owned a chop-shop where one of the "stolen" vehicles was recovered, police said. He's charged with receiving stolen property, theft and related charges.
The 10 other defendants were owners of vehicles and willing participants in the fraud, according to police. They are Daniel Stabile, 22; Karen Mitchell, 54; Dominique Nixon, 23; Elmo Swanson, 47; Mark Clark, 49; Robert Ditomaso, 40, and Frederick Brooks, 71, all of Philadelphia. Also charged are Jason Silverstein, 27, of Egg Harbor, N.J.; David Dorkin, 49, of Cherry Hill, and Deborah Lawson of Linwood, Pa. They are facing charges including theft and insurance fraud.
It's unknown what Sessa did with the money he allegedly got from the scheme, but police said those who allowed their cars to be damaged, or who reported them stolen when they were not, typically used the insurance money to pay off gambling debts or car loans.
Sessa's shop is in the same complex as one that was owned by Rocco Maniscalco, 38, a close relative of notorious Philadelphia mobster Harry "The Hunchback" Riccobene. Maniscalco, who owned New Era Collision, was shot to death outside of his South Philly home in June.
Christopher Brown, meanwhile, took his car to New Era following a crash and handed over a $4,300 insurance check to cover the repairs. When Maniscalco was slain, his shop transferred Brown's 2006 Chevy Impala to Sessa's shop to finish the repairs.
Brown said Sessa claimed that New Era had done far fewer repairs than they had claimed and that the insurance money was frozen in their account. Sessa brought the insurance adjuster back out and got another $2,700, but he told Brown that still wasn't enough. Two weeks ago, Brown cut Sessa a check for another $2,500 just to get his car back after five months.
"The day I drove it off the lot, my check-engine light went on," Brown said. "My reaction when he was arrested today was 'Good.' I mean, he deserves it. It's not a shock. It's more of a relief that hopefully no one else has to go through this."