SEPTA has joined forces with District Attorney Seth Williams to root out con artists who fake injuries after bus and train accidents, and serenade them with the old "Baretta" theme song: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."
In the battle against fake-injury fraud, SEPTA yesterday unveiled its version of Shock & Awe: eight to 10 digital video cameras on 45 percent of its bus fleet - "You can clearly see every person on the bus," said Frank Cornely, SEPTA's claims director - and 10 to 12 cameras on every Broad Street Line and Market-Frankford Line rail car. By 2013, all buses will be on candid camera.
Filing fraudulent injury claims is a third-degree felony, said Fran Kelly, SEPTA's assistant GM of public and government affairs.
"The videos take your breath away," he said. "One shows a woman rider who wasn't even aware of a low-impact accident.
"When she becomes aware, she flops down on her seat like she's hurt and tells a little kid near her to do the same. At first, you laugh because it's so ridiculous. Then the seriousness hits you. It's depressing that people do this."
That woman has been arrested and charged with two counts of fraud, Cornely said.
Another video camera, focused through a front windshield, shows a man sprinting down the street toward a bus after a minor accident, boarding it, then lying down on a seat and holding his back as if he'd been hurt.
"They rack up these incredible medical bills," said Cornely. "In one case, where the guy says he broke his nose during a bus accident, bills totaled $40,000. We checked the video. He broke his nose all right, but not in the bus accident. After we presented the video evidence, his attorney dropped the lawsuit."
"Digital video is a 100 percent credible, indisputable witness," he said. "The judge presiding over a fraud case is placed at the scene. That's the beautiful thing."
SEPTA says it paid out $40 million in legitimate claims last year.