Wednesday, 25 July 2012 21:55

Freeport, NY, Shop Owner Found Not Guilty of GEICO-Brought Claims of Insurance Fraud

Lorraine Pilitz, owner of Autotech Collision at 120 E. Merrick Rd. in Freeport, NY, was accused of submitting fraudulent records for an insurance claim in September of 2010, but a jury recently found her not guilty on all five felony counts.

According to the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, Lorraine Pilitz  (formerly Christie-Pilitz) 54, of Merrick and owner of Autotech Collision, (also known as Autotech Collision Rockville Center) was charged in September 2010 with three counts of fourth-degree insurance fraud and falsifying business records. If she had been convicted, Ms. Pilitz could have faced three years in jail. On June 22, a jury found Ms. Pilitz not guilty on all five charges.

According to her attorney Oscar Michelen, the charges stemmed from a 2009 auto accident in which the vehicle Ms. Pilitz was driving in was rear-ended by another motorist.

 

Authorities previously stated that in 2009, Pilitz was driving a 2007 PT Cruiser that was owned by her body shop when she was rear-ended. While the severity of the accident was in dispute Pilitz submitted a claim to GEICO, the company that insured the other driver, claiming that her car was totaled. GEICO attempted multiple times to see the car so that they could assess the damage, but were unable to for six weeks.

GEICO claimed that when their representative saw the car at Pilitz’s body shop, it had already been dismantled inside the shop. GEICO agreed to pay the full cost of the damages, and asked Pilitz for proof of the vehicle’s value — a bill of sale that would prove her ownership of the car and a list of expenses related to the storage and repair of it.

At the time Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said that Pilitz provided GEICO with a hand-written list of expenses and a “fraudulent bill of sale indicating that she paid Autotech $12,491, including $991 in tax, for the vehicle, and a fraudulent MV-50 (a DMV form used to transfer ownership of any vehicle owned or controlled by a dealer).

The DA also claimed that during the D.A.’s investigation, another forged MV-50 was discovered, this one containing the forged signature of Pilitz’s father, who died seven months prior to the date on the form, according to Rice.

“Lorraine Pilitz knows the system and thought she could play it to her advantage, but she got caught,” Rice said. “When people defraud insurance companies, it results in higher costs for the rest of us. By investigating and prosecuting insurance fraud cases, we are doing our part in keeping costs down for honest ratepayers.”

Ms. Pilitz always maintained her innocence and testified at trial that she was only trying to obtain what she was entitled to under the law.

This is not the first legal controversy involving Ms. Pilitz, who calls herself a consumer advocate in the collision industry.

Pilitz sued the villages of Malverne and Freeport in Nassau County on the grounds that they discriminated against her with respect to the operation of her towing and collision business based on her gender--specifically, that the defendants unfairly denied her proper opportunities to tow accident-damaged or otherwise disabled vehicles pursuant to a rotation list of officially-approved towing companies. The settlement eventually approved by the court awarded plaintiffs $43,526.75 in damages, in addition to non-monetary relief designed to ensure that plaintiff and her businesses would not be denied towing opportunities by the defendants. A messy compensation dispute then ensued between the towing companies and their attorneys in which the entire settlement was court ordered to be paid to the attorneys.

Complaints have been filed by customers regarding lengthy storage times, associated fees and refusal to return vehicles.

According to Fox 5 News, the DMV said it has levied about $7,000 in fines and $2,000 in restitution against the company. Pilitz told the TV news interviewer that she has never overcharged any customers.

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