Weprin backs bill to combat staged crashes

Alice Ross
By Phil Corso

State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) visited the scene of the crime on Commonwealth Boulevard Friday to build support for a bill he introduced last year, which aims to strengthen the penalties for staging car accidents for insurance purposes.

Almost nine years after 71-year-old Alice Ross was killed in the pre-meditated crash, Weprin called on the state Legislature to pass Alice’s Law to save taxpayer dollars.

“This accident was arranged and intentionally committed by individuals hoping to cash in on the accident by filing fraudulent insurance claims,” Weprin said. “Not only does this result in a huge loss of revenue for the state, but the idea that a person’s life is tragically taken is totally unacceptable.”

He stood beside former Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney and New Yorkers Stand Against Insurance Fraud spokesman David Schwartz, who blamed politics for the year-old bill’s failure to pass in Albany.

“It’s time we wake up and address this epidemic,” Schwartz said, noting with heavy emotion that every state district attorney supported the legislation. “We’re asking the Legislature to do what most people would do and pass Alice’s Law.”

His warning came on the coattails of a major insurance scam bust, as the U.S. Department of Justice charged 36 people allegedly involved in a $275 million auto insurance fraud ring in New York.

Weprin introduced the bill, A6177, last March before it eventually died in committee, but the same bill, S1685, sponsored by state Sen. James L. Seward (R-Oneonta) passed the Senate that same month.

Friday morning’s news conference was arranged to remember Ross almost nine years after the March 22, 2003, accident and gather momentum for the bill, Weprin said.

The bill would amend the current penal law in place and create crime categories for staging motor vehicle accidents in the first, second and third degrees. Incidents would also be classified as class B felonies if an uninvolved party is injured.

Schwartz said the bill needed to be passed on its own instead of being “lumped in” with other legislation, pointing to various “technical aspects” of the reform.

The issues of no-fault insurance reform were at the forefront of the discussion, Schwartz said, adding that taxpayer dollars were suffering from such fraudulent insurance scams. Weprin voiced his support for the anti-insurance fraud group , citing its efforts to save money and human lives by promoting the passage of Alice’s Law and no-fault insurance reform.

The driver responsible for Ross’ death was 25-year-old Waurd Demolaire of Brooklyn, who was convicted of conspiracy and manslaughter in Queens Supreme Court Feb. 16, 2006. According to police, he drove his car head-on into Ross, thrusting her car into a tree in front of 82-51 Commonwealth Blvd. His appeal was denied and he is now serving a 15-year prison sentence.

“This accident was arranged and intentionally committed by individuals hoping to cash in on the accident by filing fraudulent insurance claims,” Weprin said.

Seniors like Ross are especially vulnerable to being targeted in such acts of fraud, Weprin said, since perpetrators might believe they are less likely to be confrontational or to dispute such an accident.

“It’s time to send a clear message to those perpetrators who seek to cash in on dangerous auto accidents that could potentially lead to the injury or death of another individual,” Weprin said.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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