A quiet, residential neighborhood in Bellerose no longer looks like a crime scene, but nearly nine years ago a grandmother lost her life there as an innocent victim of an insurance scam.
Alice Ross, 71, was on her way to visit her family when the car she was driving was struck by Waurd Demolaire, 25, of Brooklyn. Ross lost control of her car, hit a tree and was killed.
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) doesn’t want that to happen again and is sponsoring Alice’s Bill, which would impose tougher criminal penalties on those who stage accidents and make it a class D felony.
At a press conference Friday at the crash site on Commonwealth Boulevard, Weprin was joined by David Schwartz, spokesman for New Yorkers Stand Against Insurance Fraud. The bill has passed the Senate but is stalled in the Assembly.
“A study shows that 20 percent of no-fault insurance claims had elements of fraud,” Weprin said. “We want momentum on the bill.”
Schwartz called the measure “a common-sense piece of legislation to combat an epidemic.” He estimated that bogus claims cost New York drivers $1 billion a year
“I don’t see what the problem is,” he added. “We want the bill acted on immediately.”
Schwartz noted that the district attorneys from all five boroughs support the measure, as do those on Long Island, and he believes that if the bill were enacted, it would deter criminals from creating fake accidents.
Criminals who try to pull off the scams complain of back and neck injuries and work with shady doctors on thousands of dollars of false insurance claims, according to the industry.
In the 2003 case, Demolaire and his three accomplices feigned injuries and went to the hospital, but sneaked out after learning that Ross had died.
Insurance officials say the elderly and women are often targeted by the scammers because they are usually not confrontational.
Demolaire was convicted of second degree manslaughter and conspiracy and received an indeterminate sentence of five to 15 years in prison.
Weprin pointed out that if Alice’s Bill is passed, it would make staging such a crime a felony, whether anyone was hurt or not.
Schwartz indicated that the bill has been stalled because it’s part of a reform package. “This bill shouldn’t be lumped in it,” he said. “They should just pass it separately.”
Both men pointed out that the Justice Department last week busted an alleged $275 million auto insurance fraud ring in the state, sending a strong message to scammers.