Philadelphia – Detectives from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit investigated attorney Stuart Doctorvitz for paying several co-conspirators to recruit individuals to file fraudulent personal injury lawsuits. Philadelphia DAO Insurance Fraud Unit detectives learned of this conspiracy through the arrest of Jerome Johnson, a defendant in the American Collision grand jury investigation. Detectives recovered Johnson’s 2004 Ford Expedition and cell phone in connection to his arrest. Johnson’s cell phone contained numerous pictures of defective sidewalks located through Philadelphia as well as pictures of addresses or street signs that connected each sidewalk to its individual location. Detectives also found pieces of note paper with addresses or intersections along with the word “spot” in Johnson’s 2004 Ford Expedition. Johnson also had business cards belonging to attorney Stuart Doctorvitz in his vehicle as well.
Text messages retrieved from Johnson’s cell phone established that Jerome Johnson and Stuart Doctorvitz conspired to recruit citizens to file fraudulent personal injury lawsuits. The recovered text messages between Johnson and Doctorvitz discuss good locations to stage slip and fall claims and criticize the caliber of Johnson’s client referrals. Pursuant to this investigation, detectives served a search warrant on the Law Offices of Stuart Doctorvitz and seized all questionable client files. As a result of the investigation, the following defendants were arrested for filing fraudulent injury lawsuits with the aid of Stuart Doctorvitz: Michael Boone, Derrel Moore, Jamal Ransom, Andre Montgomery, Robert Samuel, Rochelle Newell, Lisa DiCastando, Darya Golatt, Kevin Dabney and James Hendricks. Descriptions of each individual’s fictitious claim is included below.
On September 15, 2015, Michael Boone was arrested for Theft by Deception, Criminal Conspiracy, Insurance Fraud and False Swearing in connection to a fraudulent slip and fall claim he filed with the assistance of Stuart Doctorvitz. Boone claimed that he tripped and fell on a defective sidewalk in front of Little Starz Learning Center on 5429 Larchwood Street in Philadelphia on October 11, 2012. Doctorvitz filed a lawsuit against the business on behalf of Boone and requested fifty thousand dollars for Boone’s injuries. During the course of the investigation, Insurance Fraud Unit detectives approached Boone about his injury claim. He stated that Jerome Johnson asked him if he wanted to make money from filing a fictitious lawsuit. Boone stated that he then met with Doctorvitz who coached him on the nature of his claim.
On September 8, 2015, Moore was arrested for Theft by Deception, Criminal Conspiracy, Insurance Fraud and False Swearing in connection to a fraudulent personal injury claim which he filed with the assistance of Stuart Doctorvitz. Moore alleged that on September 28, 2012, he tripped on a defective sidewalk out front of Fresh Donuts located at 5944 Market Street in Philadelphia. Moore retained Doctorvitz who filed suit against Affirmative Risk Management which insures Fresh Donuts. At one point during litigation, Doctorvitz threatened to sue Affirmative Risk Management for bad faith if they refused to settle this claim. When approached by Insurance Fraud Unit detectives, Moore stated that Jerome Johnson had suggested he file a fraudulent personal injury lawsuit. Johnson brought Moore to Doctorvitz’s office and instructed him to say that he fell in front of the Fresh Donuts. Moore stated that he did not receive any settlement money from this case.
On September 11, 2015, Jamal Ransom was arrested for Theft by Deception, Criminal Conspiracy, Insurance Fraud and False Swearing in connection to a staged personal injury lawsuit he filed with assistance of Stuart Doctorvitz. Ransom alleged that on December 9, 2012, he tripped on a defective sidewalk in front of Ken Crest Centers located at 5900 Elmwood Avenue in Philadelphia. Ransom stated that he was walking on Elmwood Avenue towards 60th Street when he tripped on a sidewalk that had been raised by a tree root. When approached by Insurance Fraud Unit detectives, Ransom stated that Johnson had suggested he file a fraudulent personal injury lawsuit in order that he could make some extra money. Ransom said that Johnson took him to Doctorvitz’s law office, and after Johnson and Doctorvitz privately conferred with one another, Doctorvitz proceeded to question Ransom. Doctorvitz’s file indicates that he settled this claim with Philadelphia Insurance Company for fourteen thousand four hundred dollars. Ransom stated that he received one thousand dollars for his participation.
On September 15, 2015, Andre Montgomery was arrested for Theft by Deception, Criminal Conspiracy, Insurance Fraud and False Swearing in connection to a fraudulent personal injury case that he filed with the assistance of Stuart Doctorvitz. Montgomery alleged that on February 27, 2012 he slipped and fell as he was walking on the 300 block of S. 13th Street. When he was approached by Insurance Fraud Unit detectives, Montgomery stated that he is personally acquainted with Jerome Johnson and that Johnson had asked him to file a fraudulent personal injury lawsuit. Montgomery said that Johnson told him to go to the emergency room and report he was injured. After Montgomery went to the hospital, Johnson took him to meet with Doctorvitz who then filed suit against North American Capacity Insurance Company.
On September 10, 2015, Samuel was arrested for Theft by Deception, Criminal Conspiracy, Insurance Fraud, False Swearing and False Reports in connection to a fraudulent injury claim that he filed with the assistance of Stuart Doctorvitz. Samuel alleged that on August 29, 2013, he had an accident at the intersection of 65th Street and Cobbs Creek Parkway. Samuel stated that he was traveling on Cobbs Creek Parkway and attempting to make a left-hand turn when the car behind him also attempted to turn and consequently struck Samuel’s passenger side front wheel-well. Samuel claimed that the other driver failed to stop. When Insurance Fraud Unit detectives approached Samuel he stated that he was not actually involved in an accident on August 29, 2013, but rather Johnson had arranged for someone to damage his 2006 Dodge in order that Samuel could file an injury claim with Stuart Doctorvitz. Following Johnson’s instructions, Samuel filed a claim with both the Philadelphia Police and Allstate Insurance Company even though no real accident occurred.
On September 9, 2015, Rochelle Newell was arrested for two counts of Theft by Deception, two counts of Criminal Conspiracy, two counts of Insurance Fraud and two counts of False Swearing in connection to two fraudulent personal injury claims which she filed with the assistance of Stuart Doctorvitz. In the first claim, Newell alleged that she fell in front of 504 N. 63rd Street on June 29, 2009 after she tripped over a defective sidewalk. In the second claim, Newell alleged that she fell in front of 1804 Bainbridge Street after she tripped over a raised sidewalk. When approached by Insurance Fraud Unit detectives, Newell stated that Johnson had set up both of these fraudulent claims and that she had never been to either location. Stuart Doctorvitz settled the first claim with Harleysville Insurance Company for thirty one thousand and five hundred dollars and he settled the second claim with American Family Home Insurance Company for fifteen thousand dollars. Newell stated that she received one thousand dollars for her participation in the 2009 claim but that she did not receive any money for her participating in the 2012 claim.
Lisa DiCastando, Darya Golatt and Kevin Dabney were all arrested in mid-September 2015 for charges including Theft by Deception, Criminal Conspiracy, Insurance Fraud and False Reports. DiCastando, Golatt and Dabney all falsely claimed to have been involved in an auto accident with a deer. DiCastando claimed that she was driving her vehicle on Fort Mifflin Road on April 15, 2011 when a deer ran in front of her car and caused her to lose control and strike a guardrail. Golatt and Dabney claimed that they were passengers in DiCastando’s car during this accident. All three then retained Stuart Doctorvitz as their personal injury attorney and filed claims with Nationwide Insurance Company. When approached by Insurance Fraud Unit detectives, DiCastando stated that she told her cousin, Jerome Johnson, of her car troubles and he said he could have her vehicle fixed if she made an accident claim and filed a police report. DiCastando said she was told to report that she had struck a deer and that she had two passengers with her at the time of the accident. However, DiCastando did not meet these passengers (Golatt and Dabney) until Johnson brought her to Doctorvitz’s office. Golatt and Dabney were also recruited by Johnson to be part of this fraudulent accident claim. Nationwide paid sixty-six thousand four hundred and ninety-seven dollars in settling the claims filed by DiCastando, Golatt and Dabney.
On September 3, 2015, James Hendricks was arrested for Theft by Deception, Criminal Conspiracy, Insurance Fraud and False Swearing in connection to a fraudulent personal injury claim which he filed with the assistance of Stuart Doctorvitz. James Hendricks alleged that on December 5, 2012, he fell when he tripped over raised concrete on the 900 block of Pine Street in Philadelphia. When approached by Insurance Fraud Unit detectives, Hendricks stated that he was approached by Ernie Shaw, a different recruiter paid by Doctorvitz, who asked him if he wanted to file a fraudulent injury claim for money. Shaw took him to see Stuart Doctorvitz who filed a claim with York Insurance Company, which insured 910 Pine Street. York Insurance Company later settled this claim for thirty thousand dollars and Hendricks stated he received approximately five thousand for his participation.
Stuart Doctorvitz was arrested on January 20, 2016 for knowingly filing fraudulent personal injury lawsuits for accidents which never occurred. He was charged with Theft by Deception, Attempted Theft by Deception, Criminal Conspiracy, Insurance Fraud, Unsworn Falsifying, False Swearing and False Reports. He is next scheduled to appear in Philadelphia Municipal Court on February 9, 2016 for a status hearing.