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Lawrence Woman Charged With Insurance Fraud After Minor Bus Crash

By Beth Germano, WBZ-TV

LAWRENCE (CBS) – The cameras are candid in the city of Lawrence, and apparently caught a woman allegedly trying to cash in on a fake injury.

Police say 69-year-old Dolores Alvarez claimed she suffered a painful back injury when a Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority bus was clipped in the rear by a mini-van that sped off.

It was all caught on surveillance cameras both inside and outside the bus, and police say the footage tells a much different story.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports

Alvarez is seen barely moving when the bus is hit with no sign of her body jerking backward or forward.

“This was the perfect case where there was footage,” said Lawrence police chief John Romero.

She filed an insurance claim, but police say when her lawyer saw the video even he backed off the case and Alvarez was charged with insurance fraud.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, if you will,” said Joseph Costanzo, MRTA administrator.

The case marks a return to auto insurance crackdown, which had become a cottage industry in the city. Since 2003 police have arrested as many as 400 people who allegedly staged accidents and then filed fraudulent insurance claims.

Chief Romero says this case is a newer version of the crime. “We’re going to see accidents that do take place, but people fabricate injuries or exaggerate them to defraud an insurance agency,” said Romero.

Last year budget cuts forced Romero to disband the task force that investigated fraud. Now he wants to be aggressive again to prevent insurance rates from rising, and the cameras are rolling.

Alvarez declined to talk to WBZ-TV.

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