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Lawyer digs hole for self: Indicted in scams

First, Center City attorney H. Allen Litt would get someone to find a hole. Then he would find someone to fall into it.

First, Center City attorney H. Allen Litt would get someone to find a hole.

Then he would find someone to fall into it.

According to a grand-jury indictment, that simple formula was Litt's recipe for success in making fraudulent insurance claims for more than two decades and defrauding insurance companies of about $2.5 million since 1981.

But it couldn't just be any hole, authorities said.

The rules were simple: The holes had to be in front of well-off but not-too-big businesses. Department stores were out of the question, because they had attorneys who would fight every case.

Yesterday, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham announced Litt's indictment along with four "runners" - people whom Litt, 58, of Bryn Mawr, used to scope out the holes and cracks in the sidewalk and who then in turn would recruit people to make false claims for the purpose of collecting money, the indictment states.

Litt's alleged runners, who were arrested yesterday, were Joshua Pitts, 63; Baheejah Alwan, 26; Aquilla Alwan, 23; and Rashad Alwan, 30, all of Philadelphia.

Ten other co-conspirators who testified before the grand jury were already in custody and Abraham said Litt was arrested at noon yesterday at his office, on Market Street near 15th.

Litt faces 31 counts of insurance fraud, 21 counts of theft by deception, 13 counts of attempted theft by deception and numerous other charges for operating a corrupt organization from his law office.

His four accused "runners" and the 10 other co-conspirators face various insurance-fraud charges for their involvements in the alleged decades-long scam.

"Litt believed that one thing counted over all and that was aggrandizing himself and making lots of money through fake accidents," Abraham said.

"He would send his runners out to look for cracks in the sidewalk in front of businesses, large and small, supermarkets, large drugstore chains, mom-and-pop stores, any commercial business whatsoever," Abraham said.

His runners then would engage friends, family, and acquaintances to fall down and claim fake injuries for which they would go to a doctor whom Litt selected so that they could be diagnosed with soft-tissue injuries.

Ten doctors are being investigated in the case, which is ongoing, Abraham said.

According to the grand-jury presentment, Litt also would recruit new runners and claimants by having a runner hand out his business card in a neighborhood and promising money for every new fraudulent case brought in.

In most cases, Litt would pay the runners between $100 and $1,000 for their work, the indictment says.

In the indictment, one of Litt's runners, James Guinn, also known as "Big Frank," testified before the grand jury that during 18 years of being involved in Litt's scam, he brought about 36 cases to Litt and received more than $12,000 for recruiting other claimants and staging phony accidents.

Guinn, who is from Arizona, drew his complainants mainly from a group of 16 neighbors he referred to as the "Tasker Street Crew," the presentment said.

In one case, a friend came to him and said he had been hit in the arm with a bat and wondered if Guinn could "get him an accident."

Guinn testified that he called up a taxi driver, put his friend in a cab and told the driver to "find a pole to hit or jump a curb or something."

After that, Guinn's friend went to the hospital and told doctors he had a broken arm and then went to see Litt.

Abraham warned that more scammers like Litt may be out there.

"The word to homeowners and business owners is: It is your responsibility to take care of the front of your property, and if you have a crack or concrete missing some crook may do what we allege Mr. Litt did," Abraham said. *