David Cooke, Macon/Bibb district attorney (Photo: John Disney/ALM) David Cooke, Macon Judicial Circuit district attorney (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

A Decatur body shop owner pleaded guilty Monday to racketeering charges based on crashing cars to bump up damages paid by insurance companies, according to Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney K. David Cooke Jr.

“Insurance companies shouldn’t have to look at their customers with an increasingly skeptical eye, but fraud like this makes that a reality,” Cooke said in a news release Tuesday. “Hardworking people struggle to pay for insurance and are faced with greater difficulty in trying to collect on legitimate claims. When scammers target insurance companies, it’s a bill that we all have to pay. Anyone who considers a scheme like this one should expect to face serious consequences when they’re caught.”

Alfonzo McKeever, 55, of Stone Mountain, pleaded guilty to racketeering just before his trial was set to begin in Bibb County Superior Court, Cooke said. McKeever was sentenced to 15 years, the first two years to serve in prison and the rest on probation. He was also ordered to pay restitution, along with eight co-defendants. The co-defendants were mostly customers. One was an employee. The restitution payments ordered include $19,000 to Geico Insurance Co. and $15,000 to Progressive, according to Cooke.

McKeever operated Impact Solutions body shop and The Viaduct Group Inc. used car lot, both located on Covington Highway in Decatur. Cooke said investigators determined McKeever and others filed fraudulent claims based on inflated damages. The investigators based their findings on damages that didn’t match paint exchanges between the vehicles involved and crash results that seemed more severe than the initial incident reported.

For example, Cooke said, a customer hired McKeever to repair a small amount of damage from a car sliding on an icy road and hitting a light pole. But the car seemed to have significantly more damage, including a deployed airbag, when an insurance adjuster came to take a look. The adjuster reported what appeared to be the results of at least three separate impacts.

Another claim was for a parked car sideswiped at McKeever’s shop. But the investigation showed the damage to the two vehicles wasn’t consistent with a sideswipe impact and instead appeared to be caused by some type of tool, Cooke said.

McKeever was represented by Macon personal injury attorney C. Alan Wheeler. Wheeler could not be reached immediately for comment. If it had gone to trial, the prosecutors in the case would have been Matt Bridges and Kyle Owenby.