Police: Hollidaysburg man filed false insurance claim

A Hollidaysburg man faces charges after he allegedly filed a bogus car insurance claim.

Scott J. Debernardis, 30, of 406 Front St., Apt. 2, Hollidaysburg, was arraigned Tuesday on a felony insurance fraud and misdemeanor theft by deception charges after he allegedly tried to file a claim nearly a year ago for repairs for a pickup truck that was damaged before he bought it from an Altoona car dealer.

According to charges filed by investigators with the state Attorney General’s Office, Debernardis called Nationwide Insurance the morning of April 6 and claimed his 2003 Dodge Dakota pickup truck had been sideswiped by a white mini-van while driving on I-99.

Debernardis had bought the truck the day before at an Altoona car dealer.

The problem with Debernardis’ story, investigators point out in the charges filed Monday before Magisterial District Judge Ben Jones, is that the damage to the truck’s door appeared old and was rusty. When the adjuster asked if the door was already damaged, Debernardis said it was not and explained that the holes that were drilled in the door were from his attempt to fix the damage after the “accident.”

Debernardis’ story unraveled further when investigators spoke with the salesman at the car dealer who sold Debernardis the truck said the door was already damaged and the salesman was the one who took the truck to a friend — another car dealer — who then attempted to repair the dented areas by drilling holes in the door.

Investigators spoke to the friend who tried to repair the damage for the dealer and he told them he drilled the holes and used a bolt in an attempt to pull out the dented areas. He managed to make the dents smaller and then tried filling the holes with a compound, he told investigators.

Investigators contend Debernardis made false statements to the insurance company on several occasions during the claim process, and on April 20, he called Nationwide Insurance and said he wanted to close out the claim because a friend was going to fix the truck.

When questioned by the investigator with the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Section, Debernardis allegedly said he bought the truck on April 5 and on April 6, he was driving on I-99 near State College and brushed against a guardrail because he was not paying attention. When he was shown pictures of the damage to the driver’s side door, Debernardis allegedly said the door was already damaged when he bought it. Any damage from brushing against the guardrail consisted of only scratches, he allegedly told the investigator.

Debernardis allegedly said he panicked when he called the insurance company and he lied because he wanted the insurance company to pay to have all the damage repaired.

Debernardis remains free on a unsecured $5,000 bond and is scheduled to appear at Central Court on March 7 for a preliminary hearing.