PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Three people have been charged with stealing more than $300,000 from homeowners in an alleged insurance scam. The owner of Ace Public Adjusters in Philadelphia, 56-year-old Anthony J. Hoffman, and his two employees, 35-year-old Deborah L. Felix and 35-year-old Hartman J. Wismer, are accused of defrauding more than 30 people, many of which were elderly.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said Wednesday the trio signed contracts to represent the victims during their insurance claim process but instead of properly overseeing the process and giving homeowners what was due to them, they kept the money for themselves.
Hoffman owned Ace and employed his stepdaughter, Felix, as an office manager and Wismer, Felix's fiancé, as a public adjuster.
"Anthony Hoffman, Deborah Felix and Hartman Wismer are the very reason why we have an Economic Crimes Unit: so we can find and prosecute malicious businesses like Ace Public Adjusters that target, lie to, and steal from vulnerable homeowners who just want to repair their homes and resume their lives," Krasner said.
Krasner did not mince words Wednesday when he announced the fraud charges.
"They not only lied and stole from these homeowners," Krasner said, "they took advantage of them during a period when they were confused, overwhelmed and vulnerable."
Authorities say under the guise of Ace Public Adjusters, the three would have homeowners sign legitimate contracts to assist in resolving their insurance claims – like Evon Butler of North Philadelphia.
Butler had significant roof damage to her home after a bad storm almost a year ago.
With the help from Ace, her insurance company made out a $25,000 check for repairs, but Butler saw none of it – Ace cashed her check.
With no money to fix her home, the worsening damage now has Butler spreading out buckets on her bedroom floor to stop the leaks from her roof.
"I've been here 42 years," Butler said. "I don't have a clue where I'm going to live, what I'm going to do."
All three are charged with 31 counts of fraud, 25 counts of theft by deception, 31 counts forgery, conspiracy, five counts of theft by deception and four counts of issuing bad checks.
Hoffman is in federal custody for federal income tax charges and Felix and Wismer turned themselves in last week.
Ace Public Adjusters was located at 7930 Frankford Ave. It has since closed for business and the property is listed for sale.
CBS3's Matt Petrillo contributed to this report.
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