Casey Melvin, 25, of Pittsburgh, was arraigned Wednesday on the third-degree felony because Allegheny County prosecutors contend she reported crashing March 30, 2012, even though the wreck happened the day before—when her policy had lapsed for nonpayment.
According to a phone call transcript included in the 13-page criminal complaint, Melvin called from the accident scene and a Progressive Insurance representative told her that her policy had lapsed.
Melvin paid a $502 premium with her credit card to restore the coverage effective March 30, then called Progressive a few days later allegedly claiming the wreck also happened on the 30th. Progressive eventually denied the claim and reported it to Allegheny District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr.
Casey Melvin's attorney, Frank Rapp, said of the insurance fraud charge, "We'll have an appropriate response in court."
Zappala had asked the state attorney general's office to prosecute Casey Melvin to avoid a conflict of interest because he had already prosecuted Melvin's mother and two aunts for campaign-related fraud.
But the attorney general sent the case back to Zappala with a bigger conflict: Deputy Attorney General Jerry Orie—Melvin's uncle her mother's brother—prosecutes insurance fraud cases.
"We were not aware that Mr. Orie was responsible for prosecuting such cases and therefore withdrew the request," Zappala wrote in a letter to Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
The Orie family, Republicans from Pittsburgh's North Hills suburbs, has claimed that Zappala, a Democrat, has a political vendetta against them because Justice Melvin and her sister, a state senator, opposed expanding legal gambling, in which Zappala's relatives have business interests. Zappala has denied that and said his office began investigating the sisters in 2009 simply because an intern complained that Senate staffers were doing campaign work for Melvin on state time.
Orie Melvin and her other sister, Janine Orie, were convicted and sentenced to house arrest for misusing Orie Melvin's own staffers on her campaigns as well as staffers of their other sister, former Sen. Jane Orie.
Jane Orie is serving a 2 1/2- to 10-year prison sentence for misusing her staff for her own campaigns and other charges. She was acquitted of having her staff campaign for Joan Orie Melvin.
She was convicted on March 26, 2012—three days before Casey Melvin's crash.
Melvin, in the recorded call from the crash scene, told the Progressive agent that she had forgotten to pay her premium because of that trial.
"My family is going through, um, there's a public trial and I just was so out of it with everything going on ... so we've been going through a lot."