EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 4, 2013

An Accident Waiting to Happen: Fatal crash 10 years ago keeps saving millions for drivers

How the death of Altagracia Arias in staged crash helped crackdown on auto insurance fraud


She was initially elected to the Senate on a promise to Lawrence residents that she would work to lower auto insurance rates, which were among the highest in the state at the time.

Two years after the passing of her legislation to make auto insurance fraud a felony, Tucker was a key author of the so-called “anti-runner law,” which made it illegal for people to act as or hire “runners” — independent contractors who stage accidents and provide clients for lawyers, chiropractors and other professionals for phony insurance claims.

Tucker also called for investigations of Alan K. Cohen, the ex-Lawrence chiropractic clinic operator who made millions before he was convicted for auto insurance fraud. For years, she felt frustrated that law enforcement and state officials weren’t doing enough to eliminate the rampant auto insurance fraud that caused her constituents’ claims to soar

“But I knew there had to be a solution. What I learned through this was that team work was the key. That it would take so many agencies to address this: the DA, the state government, the local police, the detectives, the fraud bureau and the the media. It was a great lesson in problem solving for many, many agencies,” Tucker said.

DA escalated fraud fight

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett heightened the anti-fraud efforts by convening a special grand jury to investigate the network of runners, chiropractors, lawyers and others believed to be behind the fraud in Lawrence.

Three lawyers and four chiropractors were among 16 people indicted. Charges were later dropped against one of the lawyers. But the other two attorneys and all four chiropractors were convicted.

“It was certainly a defining moment in the city of Lawrence in what Chief Romero aptly described as a cottage industry,” Blodgett said of Arias’ death.

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