PLAINVILLE - The owner of a local car dealership and repair shop has been charged with insurance fraud.
Christoper Pio, 47, of Southington, was charged this week in connection with an alleged insurance scheme in April. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
According to the arrest warrant, Pio, owner of Chris’ Auto Clinic at 16 Forestville Ave., towed a vehicle from another tow company in Bristol without the owner’s permission. The vehicle had been involved in an accident in Bristol on April 11 and had been taken from the scene by Elite Collision Center, LLC, in Bristol. The warrant - which was written by a Department of Motor Vehicle investigator - alleges that Pio’s company had the vehicle, a 2005 Honda Accord, towed from Elite to Chris’ Auto Clinic without the owner’s permission and stored it there for eight days, before billing her $1,672.35.
The woman’s insurance company paid the bill before two complaints were filed in July with the DMV. The other complaint alleges that Elite Collision Center inflated the costs of the job and billed the woman $438.16.
Elite was called to the accident scene by the police, who use a rotational list of local tow truck companies.
The owner of the Accord, the warrant said, was adamant to investigators that she never gave permission for her vehicle to be moved from Elite Collision Center to Chris’ Auto. During the investigation, Pio produced a document, which he said was signed by the woman, that gave Chris’ Auto permission to store the vehicle at a rate of $100 per day.
According to the warrant, the DMV has received multiple complaints like this involving Pio and another man - who is named in the warrant, but has not been charged- in which Elite is called to a crash and a vehicle is later brought to Chris’ Auto without the owner’s permission. Inflated invoices are then produced and submitted to insurance companies for payment, the document continues.
Furthermore, according to the warrant, Pio attempts to have the vehicle owners sign a “contract by means of deception.” A “typical ruse would be to sign a blank form,” thereby forbidding the DMV from regulating the fees or rates associated with the insurance claim, the warrant said.
Pio, who is facing one felony count of insurance fraud, is free on a $5,000 non-surety bond. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court on Sept. 25.
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.