Delaware Man Gets Jail for $85K Insurance Scam in Darby

Franklin Thomas Wilson
Franklin Thomas Wilson

The former owner of a Darby Borough auto body shop was sentenced to 23 months of intermediate punishment Thursday, September 1 after pleading guilty to insurance fraud and receiving stolen property.

Franklin Thomas Wilson, who owned Transformer Collision Specialist at 1006 Summit St., was among 11 people arrested in March 2015 for an alleged $85,000 insurance fraud scheme that included damaging vehicles with a forklift to falsely inflate claims.

Wilson would meet with customers seeking body work on their vehicles and provide them with an estimate, according to a 30-page criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause written by County Detective Lawrence Patterson.

After the customer departed, Wilson, 45, of the 100 block of Betsy Rawls Drive in Wilmington, DE, would take the vehicle to an empty garage at 850 Summit Street, across the street from the Darby Borough Police Department, and drive the vehicle into a pole or beam to cause further damage. He also used a forklift to damage the vehicles, according to the affidavit.

The additional damage would take place before an insurance adjustor saw the vehicle. Once the insurance claim had been paid, Wilson would fix the customer’s vehicle for a much lower price and pocket the balance of the claim, the affidavit states.

Wilson also paid kickbacks to third parties that referred customers to his business with a portion of the insurance payout. One police informant claimed to have made approximately $10,000 by personally referring 30 to 40 customers to Wilson and said the scam had been running for years.

Wilson will serve the first five months of his sentence at the county prison in Concord, followed by six months of electronic home monitoring, under the plea agreement worked out by Deputy District Attorney George Dawson and defense counsel Laura Lazuski.

Judge Richard M. Cappelli also ordered Wilson to pay $68,476.18 in restitution, provide a DNA sample to state police and serve three years of consecutive probation. Wilson did not comment Thursday, but Lazuski noted he has already paid $15,000 toward restitution.

Two others charged in the scheme, Ashley Wilson, Franklin Wilson’s daughter, and her mother, Letisha Johnson, 44, of Philadelphia, entered into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program Thursday and received 12 months of probation.

Ashley Wilson, 27, of Darby, reported damage to Progressive on the right side of her 2010 Nissan Maxima in March 2014, according to the complaint. Analysis of the vehicle indicated it could not have been damaged in the way reported and Wilson was also seen delivering the undamaged vehicle to Transformers.

While the car was parked inside 850 Summit, the Nissan’s front and rear doors passenger doors suffered substantial damage, according to the affidavit. Detectives found Progressive had paid Ashley Wilson more than $5,000 in repair and rental fees.

Johnson, represented by defense attorney Kevin O’Neill, was accused of attempting to claim $12,000 worth of damage to her 2003 Nissan Turano from vandalism. She withdrew the claim following an interview from an adjustor.

Johnson was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service and pay $500 towards ARD Thursday, with the balance due within 90 days. Ashley Wilson was also ordered to pay $500 toward the program, perform 32 hours of community service and pay $5,340.55 in restitution. Dennis Coin, representing Ashley Wilson, said his client has already paid $3,000.

Three other defendants named in the complaint--Tywana Neal, 37, of King of Prussia and Adiaha Bell, 34, and Jamar Grant, 29, both of Philadelphia--have also entered ARD.

A bench warrant is pending for Vernon White, 34, of the 1500 block of 53rd Street in Philadelphia, who allegedly reported to Philadelphia police and Progressive Insurance that a truck struck the front of his Mercedes Benz CLS 500 on October 8, 2011, while he was driving on Cobb’s Creek Parkway.

Expert analysis of the Mercedes showed the damage did not match the account given to police, according to the affidavit. Transformers was also under surveillance by this time, and White was allegedly seen delivering the undamaged Mercedes to the business on October 7. By the afternoon of October 8, while never having left Transformers, the vehicle had gained substantial damage to its right side, the affidavit said. Progressive paid more than $13,000 on that claim, according to detectives.

White offered statements from three passengers in the vehicle at the time of the alleged accident: Nicole Walton, 42, Conchetta Edwards, 60, and Pamela Fields, 53, all of Philadelphia.

Walton is scheduled for a court appearance Tuesday. Fields is scheduled to appear September 19 with White’s girlfriend, Shakeya Miles, 34, of Cherry Hill, N.J., who owned the car.

Edwards pleaded guilty in May to one count of theft by deception and was sentenced to two years of probation. She was also ordered to pay $15,257.70 restitution to Progressive Insurance.

We would like to thank the Delware County Daily Times for reprint permission.

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