July 29, 2013: 57 year old Maureen Osbourne and 40 year old Barbar Bestman are facing Attempted Theft by Deception, Theft by Deception and Insurance Fraud charges.
Detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit (IFU) began to investigate defendants Maureen Osbourne and Barbara Bestman after receiving referrals from SEPTA regarding allegedly fraudulent personal injury claims. On February 12, 2010, a SEPTA Route 52 bus and a SEPTA Route 13 trolley were attempting to drive down the same street when the sides of the vehicles slowly brushed against one another. Surveillance footage inside of the vehicle shows that there was a slight vibration inside of the bus; however, no passengers appeared to be disturbed. Both bus and trolley drivers prepared accident reports as SEPTA protocol requires. The driver of the route 52 bus wrote that while driving on the 5000 block of Chester Avenue, a trolley unsuccessfully tried to pass her and made contact with the left rear panel of her bus. The bus sustained minor cosmetic damages, including scratches and loose panels. The trolley driver wrote on her report that the rear end of the bus had been sticking into her lane as she attempted to drive down Chester Avenue. The trolley driver indicated that as the bus moved right it made contact with her trolley. The trolley, too, only suffered minor scratches. Neither police nor paramedics reported to the scene and the drivers stated that no passengers claimed to be injured.
Despite the initial lack of reported injuries, Barbara Bestman and Maureen Osbourne retained counsel for personal injuries which they allegedly sustained while passengers on the route 52 bus. Detectives reviewed a SEPTA incident card signed by Bestman which alleged that she was a passenger on a bus when a trolley slammed into the back of the bus. Counsel then alleged that Bestman was on a bus when a trolley made contact with the side of the bus, causing her to sustain lower back injuries. Counsel also alleged that Osbourne injured her hip and back when the trolley side swept the bus.
Detectives reviewed medical records from SEPTA’s claim file which indicated that both Bestman and Osbourne visited Mercy Hospital and sought physical therapy. Osbourne went to the hospital on February 12, 2010 and claimed that she hurt her back in a bus accident. Osbourne then sought physical therapy on forty-three separate occasions between February and October of 2010. When she was discharged from therapy in October of 2010, Osbourne was still alleging pain and stiffness as a result of her injuries. Counsel submitted Osbourne’s medical bills to SEPTA, who paid over five thousand dollars in connection with her personal injury claim.
Bestman also visited Mercy Hospital on February 14, 2010 and alleged she had hurt her lower back while a passenger on a bus that was struck from behind. Bestman then sought physical therapy on thirty-six occasions between February and May of 2010. When Bestman was discharged from therapy in July of 2010 she was still alleging pain in connection to her injuries. Detectives obtained Bestman’s medical file which included notations made on her records by her physical therapist. Bestman’s physical therapist wrote that she had sustained traumatic injuries to her neck and back which prohibits her from lifting, bending or squatting and interferes with her work and everyday routine. Detectives learned that Bestman has automobile insurance with State Farm Insurance Company; State Farm paid over four thousand dollars in connection with this personal injury claim as Pennsylvania personal injury protection laws require.
Counsel not only submitted medical bills to SEPTA and State Farm but also sought additional compensation for pain and suffering. Counsel demanded forty-five thousand dollars on behalf of Bestman and over seventy-four thousand dollars on behalf of Osbourne. Counsel claimed that both women were thrust back and forth when the trolley made contact with the bus; however, surveillance footage from the route 52 bus contradicts these allegations. Detectives can identify both Bestman and Osbourne on footage from the February 12 incident. When the trolley and bus make contact, Bestman is talking on her cellular phone and continues her conversation through the duration of the incident. She never appears to be distressed. Osbourne, too, shows no reaction as the incident occurs, nor does she appear to be disturbed. Neither woman is thrust back and forth during this incident. SEPTA denied both personal injury claims and counsel later withdrew both cases.
After reviewing surveillance footage and conducting interviews, detectives arrested Maureen Osbourne on July 29, 2013 for Theft by Deception, Attempted Theft by Deception and Insurance Fraud. Bestman was arrested on July 30, 2013 for Theft by Deception, Attempted Theft by Deception and two counts of Insurance Fraud. Both women are next scheduled to appear in Philadelphia Municipal Court for a status listing on August 5, 2013. ADA Linda Montag and Detective Donald Murtha are specially assigned to this case.