American Collision and Auto Center on 20th and McKean streets in South Philly allegedly contained deer corpses, blood, fur and other props that prosecutors say owner Ronald Galati Sr. used to perpetrate insurance fraud. Credit: Google Maps
Prosecutors announced today that reputed mob associate Ronald Galati Sr. and 40 other suspects are charged with defrauding insurance companies out of more than $2 million from Galati's South Philly collision shop.
Several suspects allegedly allowed their cars to be used for fake "deer hits."
"They actually kept deer carcasses at their shop, simulated accidents, and took photographs they called 'Hollywood Photos,'" D.A. Seth Williams said of one insurance scam the shop is alleged to have engaged in. "They would pour deer blood over cars."
The remnants of deer were reportedly acquired from hunting trips to S. Jersey by Galati and his friends. Most "deer hits" were reported as occurring on Cobbs Creek Parkway or Route 55, and real deer crash photos were hung around the shop for inspiration in setting up the photographs, prosecutors said.
Eventually, Erie Insurance referred the cluster of "deer hit" claims coming out of Galati's American Collision and Auto Center to prosecutors, leading to the 16 month grand jury investigation that returned this indictment.
Galati was previously arrested in December on charges of hiring three men to murder a witness who testified before the grand jury investigating this alleged insurance fraud, reports say.
Also charged in the case are former Philadelphia Police Officer Douglas DiEmidio, who allegedly wrote phony accident reports to assist with the fraud, and Robert Otterson, a city employee who allegedly helped Galati fraudulently get a contract worth $1.2 million to repair city vehicles.
One cooperating witness told prosecutors that Galati frequently repeated the following statement: "I live my life to cheat insurance companies -- my high every day is to cheat insurance companies."
Galati is already in police custody, but could face more than 20 years on the new felony conspiracy charges.
As of Wednesday afternoon 14 suspects had already turned themselves in and the remaining 27 suspects were expected to be arrested soon, prosecutors said.