Six from Philly charged in faking SEPTA bus injuries

Posted: December 11, 2012

You're either on the bus or off the bus, according to an old nugget of hippie wisdom.

And if you're going to claim you were injured while riding a SEPTA bus, it might help to have been on the bus, be certain the bus was in an accident, and realize that SEPTA, while you ride the bus, is watching every move you make.

Or, you can be sure, SEPTA will throw you under the bus, legally speaking.

Six Philadelphians were arrested last week and charged with insurance fraud and related counts for injuries they said they received while riding a 56 bus in 2010.

"People used to think that riding on SEPTA and filing an injury claim was like winning the lottery," said SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams. "But that era is over, O-V-E-R, over."

Two-thirds of SEPTA's bus fleet is now equipped with up to eight video cameras.

The night of the alleged bus accident, Thanksgiving 2010, the Route 56 bus had all of its eight cameras operating. And what they recorded was very different from what the allegedly injured recounted.

The bus was pulling up to the Wakeling St. stop on Torresdale Avenue when a woman tripped and fell while she walked to the rear of the bus.

"It wasn't an accident or a sudden stop," Williams said. "She just fell."

The bus driver, following SEPTA policy, handed her an incident card and gave additional cards to other passengers who felt they were affected, SEPTA's Williams said. No other passengers reported any injuries and the woman refused to be treated at the scene or go to the hospital even though paramedics responded, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's office said.

In the following weeks, the woman filed an injury claim as did six people other people: Clarence "Superman" Wright, Jr., 62; Joseph Anderson, 59; Jeanette Sommerville, 56; Donnell Green, 47; Bernard Robinson, 62; and Rubin Lindsay, 52.

From those six people, SEPTA received $54,000 in medical bills. But to collect, a passenger must ride.

A review of the video showed only Wright and the woman were on the bus at the time of the alleged incident.

"If you weren't on the bus, you wouldn't know there were cameras on the bus," Williams said. "'Superman' was on the bus, but the video shows he was not hurt."

Investigators determined that an attorney gave Williams $250 a head for recruiting the five other people to file claims. All six were arrested last week.

The attorney is the same lawyer who represented another six people who were charged last month in a similar fraud case. The attorney has not been charged.

The DAs office declined to release the attorney's name.

"This office does not comment on any case unless charges have been filed," said spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson.

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