Mob sidekick stages crashes with deer parts

Fraud of the Month: October 2016

image“I live my life to cheat insurance companies. My high every day is to cheat insurance companies.” So went the mantra of body-shop owner and reputed Philadelphia mob associate Ron Galati. 

Galati’s rambling insurance con read like a cheap detective novel. “Staggering” was how one prosecutor described the plot of Galati, who palled around with former Philadelphia mob bosses Joey “Skinny” Merlino and Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi.

Frozen deer parts and dozens of setup car crashes were the heart of Galati’s $5-million plot to soak 18 auto insurers with inflated repair claims in the Philadelphia area. He paid off insurance adjusters — and at least one Philadelphia cop — to make the repair claims sail past insurers. Two inconvenient witnesses nearly were shot.

Dressed cars with deer blood

Galati’s body shop American Collision & Auto Center was home base.

His goons damaged cars then dressed up the vehicles with animal parts stashed in his back office — frozen deer (and deer blood), geese and dog carcasses. They planted the bodies at the claimed crash scenes, and poured deer blood over cars.

Crew members took bloody “Hollywood photos” of the setup crash scenes. They claimed the cars had collided with the hapless animals, then drilled insurers with inflated repair bills. 

Flying fruit cartons, falling concrete and rocks also supposedly pelted cars, leading to more inflated claims. 

Customers often joined in the soaking of insurers. One driver filed 11 false claims, nine of which were fabricated vandalism claims. 

“I live my life to cheat insurance companies. My high every day is to cheat insurance companies,” said Ron Galati.Galati coached another driver to tell his insurer he struck a deer instead of admit that he hit another car. This way the auto insurer would pay up without raising his rates. 

Crashed into parked cars

Corrupt tow-truck drivers were money-making worker drones. Galati gave drivers a list of vehicles owned by customers. They tracked down and damaged the cars. The owners returned for repeat work he inflated to insurers — as Galati predicted.

Galati also bought a BMW and Corvette, then had cronies crash cars into his parked vehicles. Inflating hit-and-run damage claims was his way of financing the big car payments.

Cops were on Galati’s payroll as well. He gave them discounted repairs for their personal vehicles. They repaid Galati by rubber-stamping police reports of his setup wrecks. The reports seemingly legitimized the crashes for auto insurers.

The insurance money pouring into Galati’s bank accounts enabled him to throw elaborate parties at his shorefront properties, and buy expensive dinners at local restaurants.

The feds launched a grand jury probe. Galati correctly believed the owner of a rival body shop was secretly testifying against him to the jury.

Plotted hits on witnesses

Galati hired two thugs for $20,000 each to shoot Joseph Rao and his son in the head.

He later called off the hits and told them to shoot his daughter’s boyfriend Andrew Tuono. They shot him three times in the stomach, yet he survived. 

Galati also corrupted a supervisor at the city’s vehicle fleet operation, overcharging the city at least $400,000 for repair work. For a price, Robert Otterson greased Galati’s bid to win a contract for overflow repair work, even though Galati didn’t have the welding equipment to handle the job. 

Otterson then wrote up bogus appraisals for each vehicle’s expected repairs, authorizing inflated bills.

Galati’s corrupt empire came crashing down; it was too big and top-heavy to sustain. Forty cronies were busted, and most pleaded guilty. Insurance adjuster Cheryl Stanton and Ottinger were among them. Galati’s son also faces serious jail time.

Galati already is serving 20-plus years for the hit on Tuono. He recently pleaded no contest to the insurance plots and planned hits on the Raos. The Philadelphia DA’s office won the hard-earned court decisions.

Years of jail time lie ahead for Galati, who cheated insurers yet couldn’t cheat justice.

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