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Allegheny County Among The Nation's Top Prosecutors For Insurance Fraud

Ross Mantle
BuzzFeed News
Harry Schmidt of McKeesport, Shanna Shackelford of Carrollton, Ga., and Joe Radcliff of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., were all charged with crimes by their insurance carriers.

On today's program: Allegheny County is a hotbed for false insurance fraud claims; Pittsburgher David Greene sheds a tear for another lost Pirates season; the airport solicits local venders to be part of its new terminal build; and WESA's Chris Potter draws a fuzzy line between political rally and campaign stop.

BuzzFeed finds insurance fraud claims get a boost from prosecutors on the payroll
(0:00 — 10:31)

Dozens of people have been falsely charged with felonies based, in part, on evidence their insurance companies provided to law enforcement, according to a new investigation from reporter Kendall Taggart.

Her piece begins with the tale of Harry Schmidt, a Vietnam veteran living in McKeesport, who was accused by police of faking the theft of his Ford F-150. Schmidt later found Erie Insurance actively worked with investigators to try to convict him of insurance fraud, even paying part of the salaries of the lead detective on the case, the prosecutor who charged him and an expert witness who testified against Schmidt in court.

Taggart found that in 27 cases nationwide, Erie, State Farm, Farmers and other home and auto insurers contributed materially and financially to investigations that went on to falsely charge their customers with felonies. Some were convicted, and those convictions later overturned.

Can Clint Hurdle whether the latest blows to Buccos baseball?
(11:52 — 16:52)

The Pirates have the second worst record in the National League, and prospects for an upswing aren't looking good. Native Pittsburgher, Morning Edition host and enduringly optimistic baseball fan David Greene joins WESA's The Confluence to talk about why he still can't turn away.

For veterans, the path through the legal system can change
(16:52 — 21:36)

Pennsylvania has one of the largest veteran populations in the U.S., and in Allegheny County, a special court provides an alternate route through the justice system to serve those vets. WESA’s Lucy Perkins looks at how the program is doing for veterans like Kelly Ferri, who completed the program in 2016.

PIT invites locals to pitch their construction products 
(22:05 — 32:13)

The Allegheny County Airport Authority is hosting a vendor product pitch fair at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

Paul Hoback, chief development officer for the authority, says companies who register by 5 p.m. today will have the chance to make brief presentations and offer display samples for members of the terminal design team and airport staff. Officials are looking for sustainable building and construction products in a wide variety of specialties

Hoback says he's expecting more than 100 vendors, ultimately yielding a few contracts and even more relationships for future projects down the road. Vendors will get a chance to help set "the first and last impression of the region at this airport that we think the visitors and the people of Pittsburgh deserve."

Who should pay when Presidential trips get too political? 
(32:13 — 39:00)

President Trump toured the construction site of Shell's new ethane cracker plant in Beaver County this week. The White House still holds that the trip was exclusively to tout Trump's economic agenda, but as  WESA's Chris Potter notes, there were other elements to his remarks.

90.5 WESA's Tom Hurley, Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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