A Philadelphia police officer was among 11 people charged with insurance fraud following a more than year-long undercover investigation by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office Insurance Fraud Unit.
Officer Gary Cottrell is accused of acting as a wreck chaser on and off duty to direct car accident victims to University Collision Centers in exchange for cash. Cottrell was also charged for filing fraudulent claims for fabricated damage to his own vehicles.
Investigators say the owner and employees of University Collision Centers enhanced and created damage to vehicles brought in for repair to inflate the value of insurance claims for collision damage. In addition, seven appraisers employed by insurance companies accepted cash payments to inflate damage estimates, District Attorney Seth Williams said. Attorney Michael Wolf is accused of advising body shop owner, Edward Hildebrandt, on the fraudulent aspects of the business.
The investigation, sparked by a referral from State Farm Insurance Co. in February 2010, used electronic audio and video surveillance, a decoy car that was made available by Nationwide Insurance Co. through the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and a pretext insurance policy provided by GEICO Insurance Co.