Posted Apr 24, 2014 11:35 am CDT
A Philadelphia lawyer committed suicide last week to avoid arrest as the mastermind of a slip-and-fall insurance scheme, District Attorney Seth Williams claimed at a Wednesday press conference.
He accused Andrew H. Gaber of using runners, many of whom were former clients, to recruit new clients to act as victims in staged sidewalk accidents which were the basis of false insurance claims, reports the Philadelphia Daily News. Williams said the runners got $100 to $500 per case, while clients got insurance settlements, minus a 40-percent contingency fee charged by Gaber.
However, Metro reports that attorney Mark Neff, who was Gaber’s defense lawyer and friend, said Gaber intended to defend the case aggressively. Neff also questioned whether anyone could know what caused Gaber to take his own life, devastating his family.
The DA contended that Gaber had a photo hung in the Center City office in which he worked as a sole practitioner demonstrating how a ruler could be used to measure the height of a pavement defect, providing an example of how to select a good spot to fake a fall, the newspapers say.
The 52-year-old attorney was scheduled to be arrested Wednesday, but shot himself to death, the DA said. Following a grand jury investigation that lasted almost two years and testimony from a cooperating paralegal who formerly worked for Gaber, 46 individuals who allegedly worked for Gaber as runners and clients were charged in the claimed insurance fraud scheme, the Daily News reports. Nearly half have been arrested, and many of those individuals have taken pleas, according to an assistant district attorney.
The scheme allegedly included 43 faked claims over a seven-year period, 24 of which Gaber settled for a total of $382,000.
“This office will not give lawyers who commit white-collar crimes a free pass,” the DA said. “Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime.”
Neff questioned the strength of the DA’s case, the Metro article reports.
“The criminal charges that were outlined in the presentment were in large measure based on the word of criminals,” Neff said. “Admitted, avowed liars and thieves—those are the people whose word the government is taking as the gospel.”