The DeSoto County Sheriff's Office reported the arrest of Frank David Berry III, 37, on charges of insurance fraud and three counts of using a communication device to facilitate a felony. The charges were based on an investigation by the State Department of Financial Services, Division of Investigative and Forensic Services.
According to records from the Clerk of Court, a crash involving three vehicles happened in the Walmart parking lot in December 2017. A man driving a van was backing out of a parking spot when it collided a Mercury approaching in the traffic lane. After the Mercury hit the van, it also struck a Cadillac parked nearby.
Following the mishap, Berry called the insurance company representing the owner of the van. He told the agent he had been in the Cadillac at the time of the collision and saw that the driver of the Mercury was bleeding. He said he did not have his cell phone with him so he left his car and ran into the store to call 911.
The day after the crash, Berry told the insurance company, he felt a sharp pain in his neck and back from whiplash due to the "violent impact." He said he went to DeSoto Memorial Hospital and Bayfront Punta Gorda for treatment.
However, the driver of the v an said the Cadillac was unoccupied at the time of the crash. His statement was corroborated by a witness who was shopping in the outside garden area at the time of the crash. She said no one had been in the Cadillac at time, and she did not see anyone get out of the car and go to the store. After the crash, she stayed on scene for 30 minutes and never saw anyone leave or return to the Cadillac during that time.
Store security video from the parking lot shows Berry exiting the Cadillac and walking to the store one minute and 24 seconds before the crash of the Mercury, van and Cadillac. After a deputy arrived, Berry was not seen on the video until 22 minutes and 42 seconds after the deputy got there; Berry is then seen pushing a cart to the Cadillac and unloading his purchases when he is told about the crash. He then left the Cadillac and did not return until 44 minutes and 48 seconds later.
Video from inside the store also allegedly showed Berry shopping in various parts of the store during that time.
A doctor who initially saw Berry for treatment later withdrew due to Berry's reported misrepresentation. An attorney for Berry said Berry was withdrawing his personal injury claim and the attorney no longer represented him.
Berry was arrested on a charge of insurance fraud for less than $20,000 on Sept. 28, 2018, and released on $1,500 bond.
Follow-up investigation reportedly confirmed Berry contacted the van owner's insurance company to make a claim, and he also filed a claim with the insurer of the Cadillac reportedly owned by his girlfriend. A phone call involving Berry, his attorney and the van's insurer was reportedly recorded.
Berry was arrested again on May 24 on the additional three counts of using a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony. His bond was set at $4,500 and he bonded out the same day.