For Immediate Release - November 24, 2008

Four Individuals Plead Guilty in Connection with Orchestrating Fraudulent Motor Vehicle Insurance Claims

BOSTON – Today, four individuals pled guilty in Suffolk Superior Court in connection with their participation in staging fraudulent motor vehicle accidents to scam insurance companies.  The four defendants, Laura Battista, age 58, of Weymouth, William Penta, age 44, of Revere, Janet Vaccari, age 46, of Reading, and Vaccari’s daughter Deana Pistone, age 25, of Wakefield, pled guilty to charges of Motor Vehicle Insurance Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Motor Vehicle Insurance Fraud, Larceny by False Pretenses and Attempted Larceny.  Superior Court Judge Carol Ball sentenced the defendants as follows:

Laura Battista:

Five years of probation

$12,941.25 restitution

100 hours of community service

William Penta:

Two years in the House of Correction, suspended for two years, during which time he will be on probation

$4,303.75 restitution

40 hours of community service

Deana Pistone:

Two years of probation

40 hours of community service

Janet Vaccari:

Five years of probation

$8,420.38 restitution

100 hours of community service

The two remaining co-defendants, Fred Battista, age 46, of Revere, and David Forlizzi, age 47, of Hudson, NH, are scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on December 18, 2008, in Suffolk Superior Court. Fred Battista is charged with Motor Vehicle Insurance Fraud (3 counts), Conspiracy to Commit Motor Vehicle Insurance Fraud (2 counts), Larceny by False Pretenses (2 counts) and Attempted Larceny.  David Forlizzi is charged with Motor Vehicle Insurance Fraud (3 counts), Conspiracy to Commit Motor Vehicle Insurance Fraud (3 counts), Larceny by False Pretenses (2 counts), Attempted Larceny and Being a Habitual Offender.

An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Office began in July 2007 after the matter was referred by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB).  During the course of the investigation authorities discovered that on various dates between May 2006 and June 2007, fraudulent claims involving three staged accidents were submitted to insurance companies.  Authorities allege that Penta, Vaccari, Pistone, and Laura Battista knew Forlizzi and Fred Battista, both employees of Winthrop Collision Center, also known as Collision Headquarters, were willing to pay people to submit fraudulent motor vehicle insurance claims. Investigators believe that Forlizzi and Fred Battista schemed to collect insurance money from these staged accidents.

One of the accidents involved Janet Vaccari, who submitted a claim to her insurance company Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation (PRAC), stating that she had been involved in a motor vehicle accident with Laura Battista. PRAC paid Vaccari’s claim, and also paid Laura Battista based on the fraudulent information given by Vaccari. After receiving her check, Vaccari signed over her insurance check to the Winthrop Collision Center for repairs on her vehicle. Authorities discovered that David Forlizzi assisted Vaccari in staging this accident with the help of Laura Battista, and her stepson, Fred Battista.

During the investigation authorities discovered that a second fraudulent claim was submitted by Deana Pistone to her insurance company, also PRAC, alleging that her vehicle had been vandalized.  She claimed to PRAC that as a result of the vandalism she brought her car to Winthrop Collision Center for repair. She later withdrew her claim after PRAC began investigating the incident. Pistone admitted that the claim was false and that Forlizzi convinced her to submit a false claim.

A third claim found to be fraudulent was submitted by William Penta, who stated to his insurance company, National Grange Mutual Insurance (NGM) that he had struck a parked vehicle belonging to Laura Battista.  NGM paid the claim for the damage to the vehicle which Penta was driving, and also paid Laura Battista for the alleged damage to her vehicle. Penta also filed a Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) claim for injuries sustained in the accident. Investigators discovered that Penta had known Fred Battista prior to the staged accident, and it is through this relationship that Penta became involved in the insurance fraud scheme.

A Suffolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against all six defendants on March 27, 2008. On April 15, 2008, they were arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court and entered pleas of not guilty and released on personal recognizance. Today, four of the defendants pled guilty, were sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution. The two remaining defendants are scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on December 18, 2008.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Joshua Pakstis, of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division. Investigators from the IFB also assisted with the case.

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