Forty-six people are being charged in connection with a wide-ranging insurance fraud scheme in Philadelphia, District Attorney Seth Williams announced Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Center City lawyer Andrew Gaber orchestrated the plot, which allegedly swindled 21 insurance companies out of nearly $400,000.

According to a grand jury presentment, Gaber paid "runners" to recruit people to stage phony slip-and-fall accidents so he could file false insurance claims. The conspirators were carefully trained to lie to paramedics and doctors in order to generate paperwork documenting the falls, Williams said.

"Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime," said Williams. "False claims cause all of us to pay higher insurance rates. Insurance fraud ties up fire and rescue personnel and resources that should be assisting true emergency victims."

Gaber was expected to be arrested Wednesday, but he committed suicide last week. Marc Neff, Gaber's attorney, says that his client was planning to defend himself against the charges.

"What you have is a bunch of liars and thieves that are pointing the finger at a well-respected and now-deceased lawyer," said Neff, referring to the testimony of alleged "runners" and other co-conspirators.

Williams said 15 defendants already have pleaded guilty, four were allowed into diversionary programs and three have scheduled guilty pleas. His office is working to track down the remaining 24 defendants.