Bern Township Police Officer charged with insurance fraud, false reports after hit-and-run crash

Bern Township Police Officer Douglass M. Brown has been arrested on insurance fraud and false reports after Berks County District Attorney Detectives investigated a hit-and-run accident and vehicle theft report.

Brown, 41, South Heidelberg Township, has been charged with insurance fraud, accident involving damage to attended vehicle, false report of theft or conversation of vehicle, false reports, driving on roadways laned for traffic and criminal conspiracy.

During the Berks County District Attorney Detectives investigation, started on Dec. 12, Detectives learned that Sinking Spring Patrol Officer Travis Fritz responded to a three-car hit-and-run accident in the 3400 block of Penn Ave., Sinking Spring, on Dec. 11, at 2:07 a.m. that caused damage to two parked vehicles, one of which had three occupants inside. No one was injured in the crash. The hit-and-run vehicle fled the scene and was found abandoned, with extensive passenger side front damage, a short distance away on Queen Street. The vehicle was registered to Timothy Chappelear of South Heidelberg Township.

Detectives learned that Officer Fritz personally knew Chappelear and his spouse, Douglass Brown, a Police Officer with the Bern Township Police Department, according to the Berks County District Attorney’s Office.

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During the course of Officer Fritz’s investigation, Fritz met with Chappelear and Brown at their residence in South Heidelberg Township at which time all three; Chappelear, Brown and Fritz, developed an alibi to report the vehicle stolen to the South Heidelberg Police Department, according to the DA’s Office.

Subsequently, Officer Fritz contacted the County of Berks Department of Emergency Services and requested a South Heidelberg Township Police Officer be dispatched to the Chappelear/Brown Residence. South Heidelberg Police Officer Jeb Cooper arrived and Officer Fritz informed him that Chappelear wanted to report his vehicle stolen. Officer Cooper met with Chappelear in the presence of Officer Fritz and he reported that his vehicle had been stolen from the driveway of his residence, according to the DA’s Office.

On Dec. 20, Brown agreed to be interviewed by detectives while represented by counsel.

The DA’s Office reports that during this interview, Brown admitted being the operator of the hit-and-run vehicle, admitted to drinking alcoholic beverages before the crash, and admitted exiting the vehicle, fleeing on foot and eventually being picked up by Chappelear. Brown admitted to being at the residence when Officer Fritz arrived, admitted to telling Officer Fritz that he was the operator of the hit-and-run vehicle and admitted to reporting the vehicle stolen to his insurance company.

According to the DA’s Office, Brown agreed that he fled the accident scene because he was under the influence of alcohol.

On Jan. 3, detectives confirmed that Brown did file a claim of automobile property loss with his insurance company. In that claim, Brown alleges the vehicle was stolen, signed his name to the claim form and had it notarized on Dec. 12. Additionally, detectives learned that Brown subsequently contacted the insurance company on Dec. 14 and reported that his mother had taken the vehicle.

On Jan. 18, at 10:30 a.m., Brown surrendered to detectives at the office of MDJ Ann L. Young for preliminary arraignment. Brown was accompanied by his attorney. He was released on unsecured bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30 at 9:30 a.m.

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.