State eyes staged motor vehicle collisions

Senator Anna M. Kaplan

August 14, 2019

Originally published in on August 14, 2019.

NEW  YORK —  Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law on Thursday, Aug. 8 that criminalizes staged motor vehicle collisions for the intent of insurance fraud.

The legislation establishes a Class E felony for such an incident as well as a Class D felony for when a person commits the same crime and causes serious physical injury to another person.

“In New York, we have zero tolerance for insurance fraud, and anyone who puts others in physical danger to further their scheme should be punished accordingly,” Cuomo said. “By signing this legislation into law, we are holding reckless individuals accountable by strengthening penalties for motor vehicle insurance fraud and taking a significant step to make our roads safer for every New Yorker.”

This legislation, also known as Alice’s Law, takes its name from wife and grandmother Alice Ross of Queens who died in 2003 after two men — cousins Ward Demoliere, 22, and Alex Carobert, 31 — randomly struck her vehicle to commit auto insurance fraud.

Ross was about to visit her daughter when it happened and the two men “planned to file insurance claims and receive settlement as a result of the crash.”

“The signing of this legislation closes loopholes in the insurance law, adds higher penalties for those who stage auto accidents, and rightfully honors the memory of Alice Ross,” said Assemblyman David I. Weprin. “I thank Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for signing this important law and Sen. Anna M. Kaplan for carrying this bill the Senate.”

“Many New Yorkers would be shocked to learn that there is no specific crime associated with staging a motor vehicle accident,” said Sen. Anna Kaplan. “By finally criminalizing staged collisions, this legislation will make our roads safer by serving as a powerful deterrent for a crime that puts the safety of the public at risk every day. Additionally, it gives our law enforcement agencies another tool to fight this dangerous crime. I thank Gov. Cuomo for signing this measure, and look forward to working with him on further legislation to make our roads safer and support law enforcement.”

Bethlehem Police Comdr.Adam Hornick said that such staged motor vehicle collisions have occurred in town although it’s “not common.”

He brought up that in most cases, a rental vehicle is used by a driver to collide with their own personal vehicle.

However, he acknowledged that insurance companies may sometimes find it cheaper to pay smaller claims, like $3,000 or $4,000, than to investigate if such claims are fraudulent.

This can make it difficult to determine exactly how many staged motor vehicle collisions have happened in town, he said.

He expressed support for the legislation, saying, “Previously, you had to meet certain thresholds and dollar amounts in damage before you’re able to get felony status and the felony depended on the dollar amount on the insurance claim. Now this law gives us a tool to use as creating automatic felonies for such crashes and it expands on previous legislation.”

When asked how the police can determine if a motor vehicle collision was staged, Hornick said one way is to interview eyewitnesses of the crash.

“Maybe they saw that the driver was looking ahead but still hit the back of a car and also, we may prove that the affected drivers in a crash are related or know each other. You should keep in mind about the odds of them knowing each other and still crashing to each other,” he said.

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